Connecting by Computer

Home & Family, Technology
on June 17, 2007

Evelyn English, 85, loves staying in touch with family, but hearing difficulties make using the telephone a challenge.

Ten years ago, she began using e-mail to communicate with family, friends and even her doctor. “Now I hear from my family all the time,” says English, of Cape Girardeau, Mo. (pop. 35,349).

Here are several ways to use a computer and Internet connection to keep in touch with loved ones anywhere in the world:

  • E-mail. Electronic mail lets you instantly send correspondence to other people with online accounts. Choose an Internet provider that offers free e-mail addresses with its service. Simply log in, enter the recipient’s e-mail address and a subject, then type your message. Click “send” and, within seconds, your mail arrives in the recipient’s in-box, no matter where he or she lives. You may never need to pay for postage again.
  • Instant messaging. Want to talk to someone without background noise or being overheard? Instant messaging lets you “chat” with family and friends by sending your words to someone else who is online. They can reply right away, and a conversation begins. Maintain a list of frequent contacts (called a “buddy list”) and, when you log on, you can see which contacts are available for an online chat.
  • Online photo albums. Sign up for a Web-based photo-sharing program, such as Snapfish or Shutterfly, then upload photographs from your digital camera or computer. Tools are provided to help you edit images before sending invitations for others to view your photos. Soon, Aunt Sarah will feel like she was on that Florida vacation, too.
  • Blogs. Blogs is short for “Web logs.” You can use these online journals to chronicle your life, post reflections and even upload photos. Free websites such as and let you electronically share with family and friends. Bloggers can choose to open their world to everyone, or password-protect it to keep it “all in the family.”