The summer is a convenient season for staying in touch with our loved ones. Your grandkids are home from school, family members are taking time off, and visits become more frequent. But as the autumn rapidly approaches, and the pace of life increases for most people, it can become more difficult to stay in touch with the people that matter most.
Back in the day, connecting remotely meant picking up the phone and having a voice conversation. It’s pretty likely you’re still using a phone (mobile or otherwise) to stay in touch with far flung family and friends. However, as technology evolves, so do the types of communication we use. Now, instant messaging and video chats are the de facto ways younger generations stay in touch, and if you want to connect with them you’ll have to use them too.
Using new technology can be intimidating and frustrating. Updates seem to happen so frequently, it can feel like we never have a chance to get used to the tech we’re using before it’s something new! Luckily, some of the more common communication platforms are user friendly enough to grasp with ease, and allow us to be more connected than ever to our loved ones.
Here’s what you need to know about connecting remotely:
The Value of Video Communication
Humans have long valued face-to-face communication. Regardless of your background or the language you speak, much of the information we exchange through a conversation is done through facial expressions and body language — something a phone simply cannot replicate.
For years, video calls were something out of science fiction. If you’ve ever seen The Jetsons, you’d probably see them place a “futuristic” looking video call right before hopping in a flying car. While our cars probably won’t be airborne anytime soon, video calls are now entirely common and have become the expectation instead of the exception.
When it comes to connecting remotely with your family and friends, video calls aren’t just convenient they’re also a lot more impactful. It gives you a chance to have a more intimate face-to-face conversation which is far more memorable than a simple phone call. This is especially true if you’re connecting with younger family like grandkids — they may enjoy showing you their latest interests or creative endeavours. For kids away at school, they may enjoy showing you around their dorm room or campus. With video calls easily accessible on all mobile devices, it’s never been easier to chat face-to-face.
Looking to hop on a video call? Here are some of the more common (free) platforms people are using today:
Google Hangouts: Doubling as an instant message app and video call platform, Google Hangouts is available to anyone with a Gmail account. In fact, if you already have a phone that runs on Android (like a Samsung or Google Pixel) Hangouts should come preinstalled on your phone!
It works on both your computer and your phone, so you can make a call on your preferred platform. All you need to connect with your preferred contact is their Gmail account, which most people have as you require one to use basic services like YouTube.
Apple FaceTime: The iPhone grew to global acclaim for its dazzling design and user-friendliness. If you’re someone who prefers an iPhone over other brands, then you have access to FaceTime, one of the most popular video chat platforms.
It comes preinstalled on your phone, so you don’t have to worry about figuring out how to download it. FaceTime uses your phone’s front-facing camera, and can easily connect to iPhone users with high quality video, making it easy to connect with friends and family — at least if they’re Apple fans!
Skype: Skype was one of the original video call platforms, and remains relevant to this day. It may not be as sleek and glossy as other services, but it remains free — and works on any device or platform.
Regardless of your mobile phone or computer, Skype will work to connect with another party. All you need to do is exchange Skype usernames and accept a request to connect. Then you’re moments away from face-to-face communication from anywhere.
The Inside Scoop on Instant Messaging
Back in the day, instant messaging was a phenomenon — most Millenials probably have fond memories of hopping on MSN when they got home from school to keep socializing. Over a decade ago, web-based instant messaging was desirable when texting on your cell phone could cost 10 cents per message, and any lengthy conversation would cost a fortune. Now, however, there are dozens of different platforms that offer instant messaging, with most mobile plans offering free (or nearly free) texting. The novelty has become the norm.
While texting still exists, many young people are instant messaging on their preferred social media platforms as standard. Nowadays mobile phones have ample data plans to support instant messaging in addition to comprehensive web browsing, so it can be done from anywhere with no fears of large text-message bills.
When you’re trying to connect remotely with your friends and family, instant messaging is often the very first step. Most young people today won’t reach out or attempt a phone call without sending a prompting instant message. While instant messaging can be a great way to touch base quickly, it might be more valuable for you to reach out and book time for a video or audio call in the future.
Another value instant messaging offers is the ability to share pictures, videos and other media. Now, you can share what’s going on in your life, whether it’s a meal you’re looking forward to digging into or a cute pet picture, as well as seeing what your loved ones are up to, all with the touch of a few buttons!
We live in the best time in history for connecting with other people, regardless of how far away they might be. The internet and video technologies have advanced to the point where face-to-face communication is instantly possible, and almost everyone on earth can be reached with a quick instant message.
As life begins to speed up in the fall, it’s worth spending a bit of time familiarizing yourself with the common platforms. Check in with your loved ones to see which ones they’re using, so staying in touch can be a seamless experience for everyone.