How To: Use Social Media to Keep Friends and Family in the Loop

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The “How To” series will discuss important topics related to volunteering abroad and traveling in general. As you read on, the following will give you advice on “how to” do something. Sounds simple enough, but a lot of these tips & tricks will make a world of difference once you’re out there traveling abroad. We know this because we’ve been there, and we’ll be sharing personal notes along with best-practice advice from world travelers!

These days, reliance on smart phones and the internet can be a little absurd. If your phone dies or the internet goes down anxiety immediately kicks in and your mind races with questions such as… What if my friends text me to go out tonight? How am I going to survive the train ride home without any music? What if something funny happens and I need to tweet about it? Having a phone means being connected to and in the know with friends and family.

Now say you are abroad, without any cell service, and are functioning strictly on a wifi connection that can be difficult to find depending on where you are. What are the best ways to stay in touch with friends and family solely through the internet? Rather than having to send individual emails to every person you know, various forms of social media exist that allow you to share your life-changing experience abroad through status updates, photos, video chat and text messaging, all at zero cost to you! Here’s “How To”: Use Social Media to Keep Friends and Family in the Loop.

1. Blogging—A great way to share longer, detailed descriptions of your experiences abroad. Provide friends and family with the link to your blog prior to departure and try and update it as often as possible. Remember, a blog can serve almost like a diary and is something you will enjoy looking back on once you return back home. Many blogging websites exist but some that we suggest exploring are: Tumblr, WordPress and Blogger.

2. Sharing Photos—Aside from writing about your experiences, you need to share photos of the beautiful location you are visiting and “selfies” taken with new friends you’ve made along the journey! If you’re not huge on taking photos and only plan on uploading a few over the course of your trip, we recommend using Instagram, an app that allows you to upload individual photos, apply filters and edit them as well. If you are an avid photographer, when travelling we suggest either creating albums on your Facebook or registering for a Flickr account. Flickr is a high quality website used strictly for sharing photos.

3. Video Chatting—Facebook has partnered with Skype to make video calling through the social networking site possible. Whether you’re on a laptop, tablet or smart phone you can have face-to-face interaction with someone back home. If you want to eliminate the video component, Facebook also offers “free call,” a phone call powered completely by wifi.

4. Text Messaging— If you would rather send instantaneous messages back and forth with a single friend or family member we suggest text messaging. If both you and your recipient have iPhones then iMessage would be the best solution because these text messages are sent through wifi. Be sure to turn off your 3G and data before you head to your location of choice to avoid crazy international fees. If you are not an iPhone user there are two apps you can download in order to text message over wifi, Whatsapp and Viber. We suggest you download either of these!

5. And of course, Twitter—When you don’t have the time to write up an entire blog entry or upload hundreds of pictures but you want to share a thought or a single photo with your friends and family back at home then we suggest you tweet it! A single tweet cannot exceed 140 characters therefore you must keep your idea short, sweet and to the point.

All of the above methods of communication through social media are easy to use when traveling or volunteering abroad; just remember you need a wifi connection to use all of them. And don’t forget to put the phone down and enjoy the short amount of time you have at your destination!

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