Far-Flung Families: Using Tech to Bridge the Distance

The days when you could expect to live near your “nearest and dearest”  have gone the way of the dinosaur. Whether you moved or they moved, chances are you’re not together for all those big milestones. But while nothing can beat a real hug, a handful of digital technologies can help you share the experience.

Sarah-engagement-ring-instagramRecently, my husband and I heard that our daughter had set a wedding date. We couldn’t be there for their special day, so we started exploring new ways to bridge the distance.

We found them on Facebook, Skype, Instagram and Pinterest – the social photosharing site where I first saw Sarah’s engagement ring.




Facebook is one of the more obvious places to share photos and news; you can tweak your settings for each share, so if you don’t want all your friends seeing your grandkid’s teary graduation pics, just mark them as private.

In advance of their wedding, my daughter Sarah and her fiance, Jordan, are assembling a book of family weddings from past generations. I scanned in old photos that I had and sent them to Sarah by email, as well as sharing a few with her on her Facebook page. (Many computer printers now come with scanning capabilities that make it easy to digitize your family photos for sharing.)




Like many young people, Sarah uses the social photo app Instagram on her smartphone; there are iPad and web-based versions, too. I joined Instagram so I could see Sarah’s photos (like the one of her engagement ring) as soon as she posted them.

For anyone with grand- or great-grandbabies, joining Instagram is a good way to bridge the distance. Instagram’s famous filters – they’re designed to replicate the effects of various generations of Polaroid camera – make it super-easy to transform just another gurgling-baby photo into something a bit more artsy and then share it with not much more than a couple of clicks – which is why young parents love Instagram; they can almost do it in their sleep. If you’re a grand or a great, just log into Instagram, “follow” the new mom or dad, and you’re likely to get a constant feed of baby pictures. (If you’ve never used Instagram, click here to check out a how-to video.)




Pinterest is a social site for collecting and sharing images; “pinners” make “boards” around such categories as home renovation, crafts and recipes.

If someone near and dear is planning a wedding or baby’s room – or you’re planning a milestone birthday party – think about making a Pinterest board. You could pin or “repin” visual ideas for decoration, paint colors, recipes and the like. They can comment on your pins and if they really like what they see, they can re-pin (ie: repost) your images to their own pinboards.



You can also link your Pinterest creations to Facebook and Twitter.

Click here to learn the Pinterest ropes via a YouTube video.



We plan to Skype with our bridal couple before and after the wedding day. You could also congratulate the new graduate or sing Happy Birthday to the birthday boy or girl yourself with Skype. It offers voice chat, video chat and instant messaging.

Videoconferencing allows for as many as 25 people in different locations to share the joy and join the party. And you can store and edit messages, so everything is right at your finger tips, a keepsake of a special occasion.

There’s no long-distance charge when both parties use Skype.

Not sure how it works? You can find out more by clicking here.


Sarah and Jordan will be making a video of their wedding, and we’re looking forward to seeing it online – however they decide to share it. We’ll do our part by putting photos on Facebook of my husband, our son Jesse and myself having our own reception a world away in our backyard.

Have you used any digital technologies to share milestones? Share your ideas in the comments below.



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