Staff Picks: Staying Connected to Loved Ones

Today, it takes just a download and a few clicks to talk face to face with someone in the next county—or on the far side of the world. A great loneliness reliever for anyone stuck in one town, house, or room.

There are more “connections” apps than you’ve likely heard of. Today, the BridgingApps team shares some of our favorites. How will you connect with loved ones this Valentine’s Day?

woman in office on factime with male friend

Amy Barry, Digital Marketing Lead: For anyone interested in a long-distance “Galentine’s Day” or similar get-together, I’d suggest planning a fun activity you can all do while video chatting. For example, set a shared time to make something from the Cooking Matters or Mocktail Mixology app, everyone working “together” from their own kitchens. If you’re hosting, you can even send your friends their food/ingredients/flowers via Walmart, Instacart, or DoorDash.

Cristen Reat, BridgingApps Co-Founder and Program Director: There are many ways I stay in touch with friends and family. For international connections, I typically use WhatsApp since it is so easy to send pictures and videos. My mom has a visual impairment, so when we connect, I use Messages, and she has the text read aloud using Alexa. Other favorite technologies: email, text, Zoom, FaceTime, TouchNote, Signal, and Telegram.

Part of the trick is respecting other people’s schedules and individual contact preferences: there are options for every personality, ability, and environment. Keeping in touch doesn’t have to be limited to speaking verbally or in real time: one of my favorite options is Jacquie Lawson Ecards, which can be scheduled and sent in a variety of ways. People who like making their own videos should look into asynchronous messaging, or sending video messages to be accessed at the recipient’s convenience.

Amy Fuchs, Program Manager: Voxer is one of my favorite apps for sharing voice messages, texts, and videos. Just press and hold the button on the screen (looks like a walkie-talkie) and spill your story! When our children were little, my mom friends and I used this every day to share advice, set up playdates, and rescue each other in emergencies (“Can you pick up my kid when you get yours?”). It’s easy to use; in fact, several of our children had it on their own iPads, and by early elementary school were practicing to set up their own playdates!  

Alejandra Gonzalez, Digital Navigator: My favorite app for staying connected with family in Mexico is WhatsApp, which allows even my non-tech-savvy grandma to reach out. My family has a group chat we use often to share the exciting things happening in our lives: my cousin’s soccer match, my grandparents’ 70th birthdays, the birth of a new family member!

(I also love that WhatsApp sends voice messages and videos without the international charges that would come with my everyday messaging app.)

One tip: if you have limited storage on your phone, turn off the Save to Camera Roll setting that automatically keeps all photos and videos you receive on WhatsApp. You can access Save to Camera Roll in a phone’s Settings, under the Chats tab.

Katherine Swarts, Digital Content Writer: I, and most of my family and friends, still consider Zoom the “good old reliable.” I have extended family in Texas, Illinois, Minnesota, Virginia, and Washington state, and travel options rarely sync for more than two or three households; so Zoom is a great alternative for getting together on special occasions. Plus, virtual groups are a great way to make friends if you have trouble finding people close to home who share your interests. My freelance-writers group meets on Zoom almost every Tuesday: we have members in multiple states and countries.

Tara Rocha, Digital Learning Specialist: Marco Polo is one of my favorite apps. As a working professional with a husband, four busy kids, and parents who need caregiving, I have my challenges keeping up with good friends I’ve known since college. My life got so busy at one point that my kids actually asked, “Mom, do you have friends?”—after which I decided to get intentional about connections. I love the way Marco Polo allows me to be more personal than social media, to connect with one friend at a time or create small groups—and also to help my kids build their own long-distance relationships with my old friends.

For shorter messages, I use Instagram Stories with its Close Friends filter turned on. It’s easy to send snapshot pictures with quick captions about what’s going on in my life, without having to worry about these (sometimes very personal) things being blasted to all our social media followers. I’ve made a priority of staying connected with close friends.

young woman holding heart ornament looking at computer screen

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