Soon after my husband and I got married, we set off on a grand adventure. Four states, four children, and thousands of miles later, we understood the need to stay connected to family and friends over long distances.
Thankfully, our journey brought us back home. Now we are within a three-hour drive of our grandparents, extended family members, and friends. Ironically, geography alone doesn’t foster our family connections. With busy schedules and an isolation-imposing pandemic under our belts, we still use technology to connect with family online.
Here are 15 ways to use tech to stay connected to family and friends, whether they live down the street or across the globe.
1. Phone calls. Let’s start with the basics. Tech doesn’t have to be daunting when it comes to connecting with family and friends. Phone calls are still a great way to check in and stay connected to family and friends. Technology keeps us connected, and now that our family is in the next phase of parenthood with college-age kids who live away from home, we check in frequently on the phone to keep those connections strong.
2. Texts. Regardless of your thumb-typing skills (my husband is a self-proclaimed master of the single-finger typing method), texts are one of the great ways that technology keeps us connected. For one of my sons, it’s the best form of communication. Quick, easy, and to the point. We stay up to date with frequent, short messages. If you are looking for some texting app options beyond your phone’s basic messaging app, check out this list of The Best Messaging Apps for Android and iOS by digitaltrends.com.
3. Email and other digital communication. If you prefer a full-size keyboard, there are plenty of other ways to connect online like email. Just like receiving a hand-written note in the mail, it’s always a fun surprise to receive an email message from a loved one in your inbox. Better yet, send an electronic card or video to really grab their attention. Here are a few greeting card sites to consider.
4. Video chats. If you want more live interaction as you connect online, consider video chat platforms such as Zoom, Facetime, Microsoft Hangouts, Skype, Houseparty, Duo, or others. This is always an adventure, especially bringing grandparents up to speed. It’s fun to watch them navigate the nuances of learning how to connect with family online. In our family, our grandpa is usually showing us a trick or two.
5. Walkie-talkie type apps. If you don’t have a convenient time to gather on a live video chat, consider an app that allows you to keep a conversation thread going, even when you aren’t talking at the same time. With apps like Marco Polo and others, you can talk to family and friends anytime, day or night.
6. Social media. Social media connects friends and family. With the help of platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and others, you can be involved with those you love, both down the street and across the country. Platforms like Facebook also offer options to create scheduled events and closed groups so you can limit communication to specific members. Stay connected on social media!
7. Online activities. There are many activities available online to stay connected to family and friends. You can play games like Kahoot, Jackbox games, or others. You can binge watch your favorite series together on apps like Teleparty. Or you could host a virtual book club.
8. Virtual tours and concerts. Feel like getting out and exploring the world together with family and friends? Now you can without the worries or costs of actual travel. You can tour over 2500 museums and galleries worldwide, all from the comfort of your home. Here are 12 famous museums you can check out, including the British Museum in London and the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Or if music is more your style, check out A Guide to All the Livestreams and Virtual Concerts.
9. Send care packages. Sometimes, physical packages are a great way to send love across the miles. With online shopping sites like Amazon, you can send special gifts all with the click of a button. Or if you want to be more personal, check out sites like A Spoonful of Love or Happy Box, where you can build a care package online and have it shipped to those you love.
10. Family webpage/blog/newsletter. With the help of sites like WordPress, Squarespace, or Wix, you can create a free family webpage or blog to connect with family online. You can also gather details and publish a monthly or quarterly newsletter to keep everyone up to speed. Not only is this a great option for sharing news, photos, and fun memories, but it’s also a great step in preserving family details and memories for future generations.
Here’s something else to consider. Staying connected with family and friends can span generations. Here are some ideas for using tech to learn more about those who have gone before.
11. Research your family tree. You can learn much about yourself by learning about your ancestors. Check out genealogy sites like Ancestory.com, Archives.com, Familysearch.org, Findmypast.com, or MyHeritage.com to get started. To learn more about what these sites have to offer, look here.
12. Consult DNA testing websites. If you are curious about the DNA of your family you can visit 23andMe, AncestryDNA, and others to learn more. You might be surprised about family connections you didn’t know you had.
13. Research different locations specific to your family heritage. Maybe you want to learn more about specific regions of the world connected to your family members. Sites like the New England Historic Genealogical Society’s American Ancestors, JewishGen, and others can get you started. With a little research, you can learn much about those who came before you. It might even help you understand why you love the things you love.
14. Record your own history. With the help of tech, you can connect with your family simply by sharing your own story. Write down your favorite memories or make a video for your grandchildren (even if you don’t have any yet). Consider recording yourself reading bedtime stories for distant family members. Even though you might not be there in person to tuck someone in, you can “read” to them digitally as they hold the books and turn the pages. Events like this can be archived and passed down from generation to generation.
15. Hold digital family reunions. The world might be moving forward and changing, but family reunions are still a great way to stay connected to the past. And even if you can’t get together physically, digital family reunions can unite living family members as they remember those who have gone before. And consider using some of the fun, tech ideas listed above to connect with family online at family reunions. For example, create a Kahoot with trivia you have discovered through your genealogy research. Then meet over video conference to play the game and see who knows the most. It’s a great way to introduce younger generations to their ancestors. You can even include pictures and other memories.Technology keeps us connected . So amid all the crazy that life can be, try some of these ideas to stay connected with family and friends online with the help of tech.