Thursday, 18 June 2020

Keeping In Touch With Friends And Family: Top Tips

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic that is currently causing devastation and havoc across the globe, we are all having to learn to communicate with our nearest and dearest in new ways. Where before we could pop round to their house for a cup of tea and chat, a hug and a kiss or throw a big party to celebrate a special occasion, now we are resorting to video calls, drive by baby showers and hen parties and socially distant barbecues.

Here, we look at some of the ways that you can keep in touch with your family and friends whether it is during the coronavirus lockdowns, you are away travelling or just in your everyday, normal life.

Image credit: Pixabay CC0 License

Snail mail

Good old fashioned mail - as in letters and postcards and the like sent by post - has seen somewhat as a resurgence in popularity during the lockdown, and that can only be a good thing, right? People are picking up their pens, digging out those ancient writing sets that their Great Aunt Maud gave them for Christmas twenty years ago and are putting the two together to write a letter. 

Of course, it does not have to just be a letter. There are apps that help you create postcards from photos that you have stored on your mobile phone. You can send greetings cards from popular online stores such as Moonpig or Thortful, and there is the excitement and fun of children doing a drawing or painting to send to their grandparents through the post.

Let’s face it, everyone gets a little shiver of delight and excitement and getting something through the post addressed to them that is not junk mail, an appointment or a bill, right? 

Top tip for sending traditional post: Have a ‘snail mail’ box. Keep a supply of nice cards or notelets, pens, stickers, washi tape and other embellishments to really personalise your post and make the recipient smile.

Phone calls

This is the most traditional way to get in touch with somebody after postal mail. Either a fixed line or a cell phone, you just need a telephone. You need to make sure that various time zones and any additional costs that other phone companies apply on any overseas calls are taken into account.

Phone calls are particularly useful when travelling, as you do not have to rely on anything other than your phone and signal. You can keep them up to date on the move about your plans - smarty gives tips about traveling to make it a lot easier and to make sure that you are safe while out and about.

Top tip for making a phone call: Pick up on cues that you need to start winding the phone call up. It can be a little awkward when the conversation dries up, so learn to look out for signals that suggest the phone call is nearing its natural endings, such as the pace slowing down or shorter answers to questions. 

WhatsApp & Social Media

If you have a smart phone, it is very probable that you have WhatsApp. These days, people are more likely to communicate via messages on WhatsApp than by traditional text messages. The free platform has more than seven hundred million users across the globe and gives you the chance to send a message to anyone who has the app, wherever they are in the world, as long as they have an internet connexion and a phone number.  One of the good things about this app is that you can see when the other user is online and when a message has been delivered and read. It also has a handy group chat function, meaning that you can enjoy chats with your whole family or circle of friends. As well as standard text messages, you can send voice notes, make voice phone calls and video calls which can be of particularly excellent quality when using cinematic mode in iphone 13. You can also send photos and videos and documents over the app.   

Top Tip for using WhatsApp: You can also send your location to a contact. This is very handy if you're meeting a friend somewhere, especially if you opt for Share Live Location, which allows your contact to see your Live Location for the duration you choose so they can track you. This is particularly useful if you are travelling alone.


Since coronavirus has gripped the world, Zoom has overtaken Skype as the number one video calling service in the world. Up to one hundred people can take part in a Zoom call for a maxim of forty minutes for free, giving you plenty of time to catch up with your loved ones!

Lots of family and friendship groups have been holding virtual parties via Zoom. There have even been people having online dates, meals with friends, book clubs, quiz nights and various other social occasions and get togethers.

It is often used in a professional context as well, so no need to worry about missing that super important conference call if you are away on a holiday in the future or a business trip.

Top Tip for using Zoom: If the lack of access to hairdressers and beauty salons during lockdown has left you feeling a little self-conscious, there is a ‘Touch Up My Appearance’ mode. The filter aims to smooth over your appearance, making you look glowing and well-rested. If you have ever used beauty mode on your phone's selfie camera, you know what to expect.

Facebook and Facebook Messenger

Facebook is probably the best social network to use to keep in touch with family and friends while apart.  You can upload photos and videos to keep them up to date with what is going on in your life and leave comments on your timeline, but you can also send more private messages via the Facebook messenger app.  You can not only send messages, but also send images, videos and films, even if you do not have the recipient’s phone number, and also make calls through the app. Now, you need a separate Facebook app on your phone but it is so user-friendly and best of all,  it can be used free of charge.

Top tip for using Facebook messenger: Those little blue ticks that show someone that you have seen their message can be both a curse and a blessing. It is great for the sender because they know when a message has been read, but for a receiver who is trying to hide or take a bit more time to reply, it is a pain. Luckily, you can turn it off by downloading the ‘Unseen For Facebook’ extension on Chrome. Once it is installed,  click the icon in your browser toolbar to make sure it is turned on


If you use an Apple device, such as an iPhone or iPad, FaceTime is available to you for free. It is very similar to making a traditional voice call on your phone in that you need to have them as a contact in your phone. As long as you both have a connection to the internet, you can make video calls through it without the need for any other specific app. 

Top tip for using Facetime: Your iPhone has an inbuilt screen recording feature, which you can quickly bring up to record your FaceTime video calls. Sadly, you cannot record audio yet, but if it's the visuals you want to look back on, screen recording is a huge plus.
During (or before) a FaceTime call, open up the Control Centre, then tap the record button to begin recording. If you do not see the record button, you need to enable it first. The button should turn white and red during recording. Once finished, tap the record button again in Control Centre or hit the red status bar and hit "Stop." The recording saves to the Photos app on your phone so you can watch over and over again.


Emails are the 21st century form of letter writing, and there are very few people in the western world that do not have an email address these days. It is delivered immediately and you can add videos, photos, and files to emails, which can be read at the recipient's convenience. The superb thing about email is that unless deleted by the person, they remain there forever and they can save any attachments to their computer or mobile phone.

Thanks to technology, we now have a wide variety of methods for staying in touch with family and friends that may live on the other side of the world whether there is a global pandemic gripping us or not. The number of miles between you can feel like next to nothing when you can see and talk to them straight away, whatever the time of day, wherever they are in the world.

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