Staying connected: The best tech to keep in contact with people

There are many communication technology tools that can help us stay better connected to family and friends. Take a look at our top tech recommendations. 

While some of us can find the latest devices, apps and social networks a little baffling, we can all agree that technology has taken us to a whole new level of communication. Forget the days when sending letters and scheduling phone calls were the only way to catch up with your loved ones, our communication options are now far more advanced and can certainly make life easier during this period of lockdown. 

How has technology helped communication?

The introduction of instant messaging and calls across most modern communication platforms has enabled people across different generations, walks of life and demographics to chat to each other as if they were in the same room – no matter where they are in the world.

Throw in emojis, pictures and the opportunity to add GIFs (Graphics Interchange Format) and quick, easy to watch videos, and you have a recipe for fun, informal and personal conversations that sometimes don’t even require words… if you can get the hang of emojis!

Beyond this, a wider internet influence and easy access to global news stories, politics and opinions on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, have shaped the types of conversations that we have. You may have noticed that families and friends talk more about politics or in-depth topics than they may have before, creating new and interesting dimensions to relationships.

What’s more, you only need to go back a few decades, and the mere thought of things like video calling in high definition would seem almost like science fiction. Today, a quick HD video call with a friend has never been easier and is a wonderful way to feel as though you are together, even when you’re miles apart. In fact, a whopping 83% of the UK’s population was using a form of social media to communicate in 2018.

The best communication technology

It’s likely that you’re already familiar with some of the popular forms of modern communication technology. And for many families and friends, it’s now a core element to how they communicate and stay in touch.

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However, if you’ve yet to fully immerse yourself in modern communication technology or you’re not quite sure where to start, here are a few recommendations you might want to try and a breakdown of what they can provide.

Remember that you can also ask for help from family or friends who may regularly use this tech, but below we’ve also got some tips and extra information that may teach you something new.

Skype

In January 2019 alone, Skype had 300 million active users across the globe, with everyone from students to families and businesses using this platform to communicate on daily basis. Moreover, a hefty 24% of the UK’s population was using Skype in some form in 2017 and, its usage seems to be rising and rising. 

Skype  is a free to use software which can be accessed online through the Skype website or as an app on your computer, smartphone or tablet. With it, you can send instant messages or have high definition video or voice calls with others via an internet connection. Because Skype originated as a dedicated service to phone and video calls, it is one of the best tools for overseas conversations and video calls. 

All you need to ensure is that the person you want to talk to also has a Skype account, and then you can add them as a contact and get in touch. 

Our top tip: Skype has a clever, high-quality recording feature making it perfect for important calls and keeping track of information. You can also use this feature to save your favourite chats and messaging conversations. 

Facebook Messenger

Facebook isn’t just a social media platform, it also has a built-in instant messaging service called ‘Messenger’, but this is often found as a separate app to the Facebook app  you might have on your laptop, smartphone or tablet. 

Messenger allows you to send messages to your Facebook contacts or have voice and video calls – again providing you have a reliable internet connection. It also lets you set up group chats with more than one person, which is great for talking to lots of family or friends at once. 

Interestingly, Facebook has seen a noticeable decrease  in the amount of younger people using the app in the last two years. In 2018, it was down 700,000 UK users under the age of 24 as compared to 2017. Conversely, the number of UK users over the age of 45 has increased by 600,000 in this same timeframe. That being said, Facebook is still the world’s most popular social media network, with a total of 2.27 billion global users as of January 2019. Additionally, Facebook Messenger is the second most used messenger app, with 1.3 billion recognised users in 2018.

Our top tip:
The fact that Messenger is a separate app is excellent for those who don’t want to be active on Facebook, yet you will be able to communicate with everyone on it. Additionally, as so many people use Facebook, it’s an excellent way to stay connected with more distant friends and relatives.

Virtual assistants

When it comes to making communication much quicker and more accessible, there are lots of different ‘virtual assistant’ devices like the Amazon Echo and Alexa, or Siri on Apple devices, which work using voice commands. 

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While they are mainly used to answer your voice queries, if you connect your family and friends’ contact numbers to your accounts, you can then ask these devices to call them or send them messages, all without having to lift a finger. You can find out more about how these work with this handy guide

Our top tip: 
If you tend to feel overwhelmed or struggle with having
to type messages or use a modern smartphone, a virtual assistant is a great way to call your loved ones quickly. As it’s an entirely hands-free approach, it’s also an excellent choice for anyone who may have 
arthritis or eye discomfort.

WhatsApp

With more than 1.5 billion recognised global users in 2018, WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app in the world.

The Facebook-owned company is a dedicated instant message, phone and video call service that offers users a straightforward, message-orientated platform to catch up with family and friends.

Similar to Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp is free and can be used on laptops, smartphones and tablets; it lets you send messages, images, videos and make voice and video calls. Its interface is really easy to use, making it ideal for anyone who may struggle a little with tech and it has an excellent group chat function which is perfect for families or even business conferencing. Handy features like the ‘mute’ option also add to its user-friendliness.

Our top tip: Make it even easier to access your favourite groups by pinning them to your phone’s home screen. This can be quickly done by accessing any chat menu and clicking on ‘add shortcut’.

FaceTime

FaceTime is a popular videotelephony service offered exclusively on Apple devices. It’s easy to use and you can quickly chat to any of your phone contacts if they also have an Apple device (iPhone, Mac or iPad).

Our top tip: FaceTime has been around for a while, but the relatively new ‘FaceTime group calls’ feature is now available and can be used to video chat with multiple people at the same time. The excellent group call feature was introduced by Apple in 2018, and has only added to the app’s appeal - you can find out more about it in this useful tech guide from Gadget Hacks.

Staying better connected

To return to a key point, beyond the convenience modern communication technology provides, a fundamental benefit is that it can be a great way to stay in touch with people no matter where you are or your circumstance. Better still, if you’re retired, this tech can go a long way towards combating things like loneliness as it offers more opportunities for you to quickly reach family and friends.

So, whether you’re new to the above tech or you’ve learned more about some of their exciting features from this post, why not give them a try? You may soon find you’re reconnecting with your loved ones in a few clicks, the touch of a button or a simple voice command.

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