The rise of digital media has dramatically changed how we communicate with friends and family both at home and around the world. Smartphones, personal computers, laptops and tablets have permeated Canadian homes and made it easier than ever before to stay in touch.
Long distance communication has changed too – the cost of communicating over long distances has become nothing more than the cost of internet access. Yes, we can still write letters, send postcards or pick up a phone and dial a number, but with over 68% of Canadians owning a smartphone, the options for connecting to loved ones have expanded to email, mobile apps and social networks.
In a recent poll of my own network on social media, I discovered some of the most popular apps (other than email or phone) for connecting with friends and family across distances.
o Facebook – The most popular app among internet users, Facebook boasts over 1.03 billion daily active users from mobile devices alone. People around the world are using the platform to share photos, videos and interesting content. Facebook Messenger also provides an easy way for friends and family to connect for free over Wifi, either by text message, voice calling, or even video calling through the same Facebook Messenger App. The recent growth in Live Video has even made it possible to have real-time interaction with a large audience of friends.
o WhatsApp – Acquired by Facebook in 2014, WhatsApp is now the largest provider of free voice calls over Wifi to other mobile phones. A simple app to install and use, WhatsApp allows families and friends to connect one-on-one or in groups chats completely for free over a mobile phone with Wifi or cellular data connectivity.
o Skype – Launched in 2003, Skype was the original VoIP calling application. Now owned by Microsoft, Skype is still a very popular go-to video calling program, especially for laptop and desktop PC users. With skype, you can make free video and voice calling over wifi from computer to computer or to mobile phones. Skype also has the ability to call landlines worldwide from your computer, for a charge.
o Facetime – Mac and iPhone users will be more familiar with the exclusive iTunes app, Facetime, which allows Apple users to connect with other Apple users. It works on mobile devices, laptops, tablets, and desktops using simple video calling and voice calling features. The downside is that both users need to have Apple products to use this App.
It may seem like alchemy or something out of a futuristic movie, but it is increasingly common to see people walking down the street chatting with a friend over a video call. That friend may be halfway around the world in another country, but the connection is crystal clear. The word “skype” is commonplace today and has become a verb synonymous with any video-calling program. Regardless of which app you choose, the features and usability are generally the same. Once you figure out that the little icons represent a universal language for menu items, you can call just about anyone, anywhere, anytime!
Questions of usability are more common than one might think! Despite the plethora of technology around us, it’s not always easy to figure out how to do something you want to do! Finding helps is easy, though, don’t worry about asking your teenager to look up from their own phone to show you how to download an app, visit your local Apple Store, Microsoft Store, Bell Store, Rogers, Staples or for great customer service and training. Go back to where you bought your device – they are experts in teaching you how to use it and most of them will do it for free. Local libraries also frequently have courses for learning new technologies, including building websites and using social media.
Want to learn more about how technology is changing communication? Join me at Zest for Life on October 16th, a special 1-day event to promote healthy and active lifestyles for Zoomers, Boomers and Seniors in Mississauga. Teach Me Social will be hosting an exclusive workshop on digital communication, including using Skype to demonstrate video calling with a very special surprise guest! Details for the event can be found at www.hawps.ca