Opinion: "If it weren't for technology, I wouldn't get my Mum sending me a homemade Christmas cake every Chrimbo"
Katherine Hannaford writes…
Being voluntarily ejected from the Australian womb close to four years ago, staying connected with my family is of huge importance to me. Thank goodness my parents and sister don’t expect me to write long-winded letters like we would’ve done had I left 20 years ago, as obviously with the invent of email and IM every man and his dog has access to that form of communication. Except for my grandmother, but that’s something I’m working on.
What I’m talking about however is other ways in which technology has improved my relationship with my family, through the use of the Xbox 360 Live, Skype, web-camming, YouTube, various social networks and blogs, and a very clever way of using Twitter.
Take a look below for how technology has ensured I still receive a knitted scarf and homemade Christmas cake at the end of every year from my family back in Australia…
1.) Xbox 360 – I’ve had mine for a good few years now, and last year sorted my family out with one down under, and got them connected to Xbox Live. Due to the time difference it’s a bit difficult sometimes to meet online for games of Uno with my Mum, but it’s great to log in and receive a message from them, or see my sister screw her face up in frustration when I flog her at Project Gotham Racing 4 through the use of the Live Vision cam. When they came over for Christmas and we were stuck in Yorkshire for a week of quality family-time, I thankfully took up one of the 360 Arcade systems and showed them a few new games they hadn’t seen yet, such as Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, and Scene It!, discovering after all these years that we’re still an extremely competitive family.
2.) YouTube – Sure, it seems really obvious as everyone uses it, but how about showing your family private videos that you don’t necessarily want the whole world to see? This is when the YouTube’s privacy features are perfect, as I don’t particularly want the whole world seeing a video of my brand new flat, or a video of my sister playing with our golden retriever back in Australia.
3.) Skype – I don’t think anyone I know uses it much for what it’s intended for – phone calls – but I know since convincing my Mum and sister to get separate accounts, the IM function has helped hugely on days when I have no time to email, with my sister and I regularly Skyping each other Lolcat links and sending photos and even songs.
4.) Social networking and blogs – Obviously when blogging professionally, the last thing you want to be doing when you get home is writing on your personal blog, which is why mine has been neglected in recent months. Back in the heyday of Vox however, it was a great way of keeping in touch, but with thanks to Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook, the process of staying connected online has been made a whole lot easier. But the day my Dad signs up to Facebook may change my thoughts on that one!
5.) Teaching about technology – My parents are, well, typical parents, and I know my Mum especially despairs of being a bit of a technology luddite. So, when she needed a new camera, I know we really enjoyed talking about which one to buy, me teaching her what the various specs mean, and sending links backwards and forwards to each other. Telling them how to set up a Flickr account, and upload photos, has definitely brought us closer together, and benefited in ways other than being able to see each others’ photos. I know she revels in learning, and feels proud of me for “being so good at the internet”, as parents are prone to saying.
Hopefully those living in different countries to their loved ones have discovered a few new ways of keeping in contact through this, if you have any other ideas, feel free to leave them in the comments box below.
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I know at least one person who regularly keeps in touch with family via Skype phonecalls. A friend of mine lives in Austria while her mother lives in France, and they Skype each other everyday… I can imagine the phone bill if they used they phones!
(And, of course, if it wasn’t for IM, I wouldn’t have been able to keep in touch with said friend, 8 years after she’d left her home country…)