Technological tools for long-distance loved ones

My mom always laments that we no longer live in an age when people were likely to stay put in the same town their whole lives. Now it's typical for families to be scattered across the country, only to reconnect in person for the occasional holiday or wedding. Fortunately for the long-distance couples, kids off at college, or geographically diverse extended families of the world, technology is on our side. Here are 4 technological tools I've come to find useful for maintaining relationships with my long-distance loved ones.

Online Calendars

Online calendars can allow long-distance loved ones know what each person is up to at any given time. This tool can be helpful to keep up with current hobbies and events in one another's lives, and it can also indicate when the best times would be for one to place a phone call to the other. My husband and I use Google calendar to map out our work schedules, meetings, and social commitments, and it helps us keep our busy lives on the same page.

Digital Photo Frame

Since my mom can't receive picture messages on her phone, my siblings and I chipped in to give her a digital photo frame for Mother's Day. We chose the Kodak Pulse for its Wi-Fi capabilities. All I have to do is email a picture to my mom's Kodak Pulse email address, and it shows up on her screen! Now she has an endless stream of pictures of her long-distance loved ones right in her own living room.

Facebook Groups

Now that my grandmother - the common link between my extended family members - has passed away, we had to come up with a new mode of keep everyone up-to-date with one another's lives. We started out with a blog on which we all posted occasional updates, but we've since migrated over to Facebook. We share pictures, create events, poll each other, and announce important news in our private group, and since most of us are on Facebook frequently anyway, it's easy to remember to keep in touch.

Video Chat

What's better than a good phone conversation? A video conversation! From Skype to Apple FaceTime to Google Plus Hangouts, there are lots of ways that a webcam and microphone can transport your loved ones into the same room. My parents and parents-in-law love to just watch my baby through their computer screen as she plays and wiggles around on the floor, and we're all excited for the day when she realizes her grandparents are practically there with her!

Granted, there are some downsides to technology, which I readily admitted to in Breaking Up with Technology to Save Your Relationship. But its benefits are clear when I'm able to use tools like these to make distance from loved ones a little more bearable.

More from this contributor:

Five Don'ts of Long Distance Relationships

Ideas for a Long-Distance Valentine's Day

Facebook and Relationships

Connect with Jennie Lee Williams on Facebook and her blog.