Tips on how technology can help you connect with family and keep loved ones close.
There is no typical family, or at least that’s what the U.S. Census Bureau tells us. Nowadays, 17.2 million children under the age of 18 in the United States live with their mother only, and 3 million live with their father only. The proportion of one-person households has also grown to 27% from 17%, where it was in 1960.
Grandparents are living sometimes thousands of miles from their grandchildren, parents are raising their sons and daughters in different homes, young adults are leaving home younger and marrying older.
There is a much different fabric to the American family today than there was 50 years ago – one that finds us all in different spaces and of different make-ups – yet research tells us our need for connection is more present than ever.
Thank goodness for technology, right?
Video calling and group messaging, apps that let you host virtual game nights or happy hours, devices that allow you to store and share photos, they all help us remove the barriers – the miles, if you will – from connecting with family and loved ones.
Sharing photos with close friends and family can foster positive feelings and connection. Simply including people can go a long way in helping them feel loved, and sharing photos and videos in real time is one way to achieve that. There are plenty of standalone photo sharing apps that can help you share images privately by album as long as those images are under a certain size. That way your family or close friend group can be a part of your memories as you make them, and maybe even print their own shots in full resolution after you’ve shared them. This is an especially good option for grandparents who live far away, extended family, close friends residing in different parts of the world, or specific groups, like coworkers.
Scheduling time with family to enjoy your shared interests together can bring you closer even when you’re miles apart. Consider hosting a virtual book club, leading a cooking class, teaching a painting class or scrapbooking tutorial, or participating in a virtual workout or sport (for a little friendly competition!).
At the end of your session, you can even suggest that each person documents their work, which can be captured as a photo or video file and then shared with all participants through Rosy. With the Rosy console and mobile app, you will be able to save, store, and organize all of your family documents, histories, memories, and more in one secure location, allowing you to easily look back and relive your favorite moments.
Everyone loves a good group text, right? Yes, we know it’s not always ideal to get notifications on your smartphone or device from 10 different people at all hours of the day, but sometimes a lively conversation can be a great way to connect with friends and family. Getting quick motivation for a workout, soliciting opinions on an outfit, getting advice from a core group, or even priming the tank with an inside joke that never fails to creep into a group conversation can be great ways to connect with your family and friends. There are a growing number of texting apps that offer options for managing groups, turning off notifications, leaving conversations, sending photos or videos, and creating private conversations with select members that can help take the chore out of facilitating those chats too, which can help make them more enjoyable for everyone.
Face-to-face conversations are still critical to how we process information, despite our reliance on emails and texts. Video calls and conferences don’t stimulate our brains in the same way as in-person interactions, one study states, but they are more engaging than other forms of communication where we’re unable to see each other’s faces. One creative way to capitalize on that principle when it comes to learning how to stay connected with family is hosting distance dinner parties where video call participants can spend time with family over a virtual meal. These sorts of efforts are – like photo sharing – especially important when it comes to strengthening connections between grandparents and grandchildren. Recent studies show that “emotional closeness between grandparents and grandchildren can protect against depression, boost brain function, and lead to a longer life.” Getting older adults to participate, however, can be a challenge in itself. AARP recommends first trying to understand why introducing new technologies can be difficult for older adults, and then take tangible steps to ease the process for them. This can mean sending screenshots and written instructions on how to install or set up video conferencing apps, or even pre-installing applications on smart devices for parents or grandparents.
In the event that in-person team building opportunities or family reunions are impossible, there’s a whole new way to connect with family and friends that has emerged using video conferencing technology. Virtual happy hours built on themes that encourage participation like wearing funny hats or dressing up like characters from a favorite TV show is an engaging way to foster connections with family and smaller groups.
Connection does not always happen over meaningful conversations, we know that. Sometimes it develops through competition, innocent ribbing, and laughter. According to Forbes, laughter contagiously forms social bonds, and even promotes a sense of social togetherness and safety. Game nights provide all of those things and there are a number of virtual game night options to help you do it from home. You can go old-school trivia with Kahoot!, or unite multiple generations with online versions of classics like Uno and Monopoly! There are also new favorites like Code Words that you can explore with your favorite family circles (like your closest cousins), co-workers or another group within your network.
Much research has been done on how sharing memories can impact mental health and well-being – from how embracing nostalgia can lead to better coping skills to how reliving memories can provide a greater understanding of who we are as individuals. Krystine Batcho, a professor of psychology at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, N.Y., who has been studying nostalgia since 1995, says “people who are high in nostalgia cope in healthier ways with difficult situations – by expressing their emotions, connecting with other people and being more willing to ask for advice or practical help.” A 2018 study conducted at the University of Texas-Austin also found that sharing memories can help deepen ties with those close to you. You’re probably already familiar with how apps like Facebook can remind you of memories a year or two or even seven years after events occur or photos posted. Now think of how other apps can apply that same concept in a more privatized, customized way – with targeted groups, automatic sharing and options to download for family and friends of your choosing.
No matter how you choose to connect with family or loved ones, or how you feel about using technology to do it, there are options for every situation and group in your life. Regardless of whether you are able to spend time with family in the same living room, share a meal at a restaurant, or attend a get-together with family or friends, there is a virtual solution to help garner the same feelings of nostalgia and belonging.
Smart apps like Rosy, which allows users to communicate directly with shared photos and memories, can group videos and moments from memorable occasions to connect with family and loved ones and start the conversations we want (and need) to have.
To learn more about Rosy, the world’s first private, multi-generational smart home digital assistant and companion app, sign up for our waitlist .