How to keep connections with friends and family outside of social media?
Is a question I’ve been asking myself recently. And I’ve been asking myself that more as I see my relatives age.
I spent the last week out of the state with a relative recovering from Cataract surgery. Three weeks earlier I was with her while she had surgery on the other eye. Six months prior I drove a different relative to the emergency room due to a blood clot in her leg. In the in-between a family member was diagnosed with dementia. The year before my husband lost his grandfather very unexpectedly the same month we lost our cousin. A woman I’ve loved my whole life was diagnosed leukemia. Over the last few years we have all seen friends and family members get sick with Covid. Over a million people have passed as a result. All these events have made me look around and realize just how much time I spend on social media not actually connecting with the people I want to.
How much time do I spend on social media? Well, I’m on my phone for a daily average of 6.5 hours. Some of it is work, but too much of it is consuming content created by strangers.
An internet search will tell you most of us are on social media between 2-4 hours a day.
And I just thought – how can I use that time to connect with my friends and family outside of social media?
It’s so easy to get caught up in our busy lives and forget about our aging loved ones. I want to say “I’m working! It’s too hard to keep up with everyone. I have a job.” Etc. But the screen time numbers don’t lie. What level of connection could I foster if I spent 2-4 hours a day building relationships with people? Probably a lot. But to be honest, as an introvert, that many hours is too many hours for phone calls or video chats. So I came up with some ideas that work for me.
1) Replace 30 minutes of scrolling tiktok a week with writing an email
I write a personal blog. So I already share a lot of things that interest and inspire me on the internet. Taking time to write an email specific for my family is something I can do. But even if you don’t write a personal blog replacing a portion of social media consumption for personal connection seems worth it.
My great-grandmother wrote us a weekly letter and I’m following her example. Just write about what you are doing, how your day went and anything else that comes to mind for that day. You can include photos too.
My worry here is that I won’t ever get a response – essentially I’ll be shouting into the void. I’m working out ideas to avoid that. Right now I’ve thinking that I’ll ask questions in my emails to prompt responses and I’ll make it clear in every email that if they’d rather not receive the emails they do not have to.
2) Schedule phone calls in advance
I’m embarrassed to admit this, but in the spirit of authenticity here it goes. I have an aunt who is an absolutely lovely woman. I’ve enjoyed her every time I’ve interacted with her. I asked her if I could call once a month to catch up. She said yes, and I did…. exactly 2 times. I think by scheduling an appointment in my calendar every week to make phone calls I will be more consistent with it.
3) Send Photos
I am a photographer for pete’s sake – I take so many photos. But even if you’re not you do have a camera on your phone and you can take great photos of yourself even in public! So you can send your friends and family photos. Share your day and ask them about yours.
4) Replace 30 minutes of social media time a week going out of your way to find things that interest them
Going out of your way to find things that interest your friends and family can be a great way to strengthen connections and build a bond. But it can also be a great way for you to learn something new.
If you know that they enjoy playing the piano you could go on wikipedia to look up famous piano players. Then start clicking through the blue links to learn something interesting! Did you know that in 1999 Steinway and Sons sponsored a record of great classic pianist? OR did you know that learning to play the piano strengthens cross-hemisphere neural pathways because you play with both hands?
Don’t force something you hate. If you hate the piano you won’t enjoy learning about the history. But I’ll be paying attention to learn about common interests and incorporate them into future conversations.
5) Involve Friends in Everyday Life
This is a tip I actually saw from tiktok, so please don’t hear me saying that I hate all things social media. I love social media. Anyways the tip was to invitee people to go on errands with you. I have to go grocery shopping. My friends have to go grocery shopping. What if we went grocery shopping at the same time? Running errands together lets you connect
Remember the people who are not a part of your daily life.
I love my husband so much. But he is the only person who is a part of my daily life (other than me and my dogs). I want to keep building connections with the people who aren’t part of my daily life. I just don’t want to look back and think “I wish I had tried harder.” You may not be able to do everything on this list, but try some of them out. I’m going to try them and see which ones stick. You can also come up with new ideas that fit your situation and the personality of your relative so everyone wins.
There are many ways for us to connect outside of social media. The most important thing is that i’m going to keep trying until I find something that feels right.