Free and easy: New ways to keep in touch

The internet can make keeping in touch with your loved ones easier and less expensive. Here are some tips to help you e-connect in no time at all.

The internet is a great way to keep connected with friends and family easily and cheaply; here’s our guide to using internet-based communication tools. 

Having family and friends overseas or in another city doesn’t mean you can’t talk with them anytime, or even have to wait until they get home to see their holiday snaps. The internet offers lots of fun, free ways to keep connected: here’s an easy guide to some of the technology that can help you keep in touch with your loved ones.

Skype: Direct connection

Hearing someone’s voice when you haven’t spoken with them for a while is wonderful, but being able to see them face to face – their eyes, expressions and surroundings – is a joy. 

Skype is easy to use on your computer, tablet or smartphone and it has revolutionised international calling. When family and friends are overseas they no longer have to spend precious funds calling home, as the sessions are free and untimed. It’s also versatile – here are some things you can do:
 
  • Use Chat to have a quick conversation or leave messages if your friend is offline.
  • Send and receive photos and files of any size in a matter of minutes.
  • Join in a Group Video conversation with any number of people in different locations anywhere in the world. So your expat granddaughter in San Francisco can introduce her new baby to all the family at once, no matter where they are.
  • Call your friends and family on their mobiles and landlines – Skype offers incredibly cheap rates.
Kids face timing their dad

Instagram: Visual connection

Do you ever catch a fleeting glimpse of something weird or wonderful that you’d love to share with others, or have a proud moment you want your family and friends to be part of, instantly? Instagram is a fun, free app that allows just that.
 
Generally, people use it to upload a photo or (max) 15-second video that they have taken on their smartphone, then almost immediately have their friends and ‘followers’ like or comment on it.
 
As the name suggests, it’s instant gratification, but users often post visually stunning, interesting or artistic photos that might not otherwise be seen and appreciated by others.

Facebook: Social connection

Facebook is essentially a more leisurely way of keeping up with whatever your family, friends and acquaintances are doing. Even if you don’t talk to them often, you’ll stay in step with their activities, their friends and events in their lives, just as they can with yours. That’s pretty special.

FaceTime: Convenient connection

Apple’s video calling service lets anyone with the newer Apple devices make free calls to other Apple users. It’s ‘bundled’ on the iPhone, but is a separate app for the other devices. You can switch the camera angle during a FaceTime call so it’s facing towards or away from you, which means you can show each other the kids, pets or the new raised herb garden.

If you’re not familiar with any of these technologies, or unsure how to get started, ask any young person in your life to set you up and show you the basics – they love being able to offer computer help for seniors. Once you start, it will become easier and well worth it. You’ll wonder how you ever kept in touch before.
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