Even if you’ve lived in the same place your whole life, it’s fair to assume that relatively few of your childhood friends remain nearby. These days, people move to where there’s work, and geographical considerations are often of secondary concern. While it’s great that society has become so mobile and dynamic, a world in which everyone is constantly on the go can also be alienating and lonely. If you’re looking to reconnect with old friends or simply to stay in touch with family members while you’re on the move, these four tried-and-true technologies may be able to help.
1. Calling Cards
Surprisingly enough, these analog holdovers are still going strong. Since many countries’ cell phone networks are inaccessible without a special SIM card, you’ll find calling cards useful if you’re traveling to several different countries in short succession. They’re also cheaper and less conspicuous than cell phones, which means they’re less likely to be stolen. One drawback: Calling cards often don’t work outside the borders of the country in which they’re purchased, so be careful to buy only as many minutes as you’ll need for each destination.
2. Cell Phones
Just about everyone uses cell phones these days, but younger generations have adopted the technology with especial aplomb. In fact, the majority of respondents in a recent survey of teen cell phone use claimed to be “unable to live without their cell phones,” which makes sense if you’ve ever seen a youngster interact with their mobile device. You can use cell phones to connect with others in a variety of ways, from quick exchanges of information via text message to longer catch-up calls on free evenings. With advanced virtual keyboards and fully-integrated e-mail services, you can even write letters from your smartphone these days. Cell phones have two major weaknesses: They are expensive, especially if you purchase a top-line data plan, and domestic phones may be incompatible with foreign cell networks.
Easily one of the most brilliant inventions of the past 20 years, Skype has revolutionized international communication since its inception in 2003. While Skype is merely the most successful of a host of services that use voice-over-Internet protocol, or VOIP, its importance is hard to overstate. As long as you both have a broadband Internet connection, it’s shockingly cheap to talk to a friend or family member virtually anywhere in the world. If you’re both equipped with a webcam, that’s even better: You’ll be able to see each other as you talk. One problem: Skype works best on a traditional computer, so it’s not the most mobile of connective technologies.
4. Social Media
Most social media memberships are free, which is a big plus if you’re looking to stay connected on the cheap. Besides, posting Facebook and Twitter updates is simply more convenient than reaching out via time-consuming phone calls or e-mail. The major drawback of social media is its public nature: If you’re using a service for the purposes of staying in touch with old friends and don’t want to broadcast lots of personal information to the general public, be sure to adjust your privacy settings accordingly.
Although it seems like everyone’s in constant motion these days, it’s easier than ever to stay in touch with long-lost friends and family members with these four technological standards.