Connecting with friends and family during isolation.

by Elizabeth McDowell, Digital Skills Support.

During this unprecedented physical isolation from friends and family, I am more appreciative than ever of the technology that can connect us with the world. Although our physical world has temporarily shrunken to the size of our homes, we can still connect virtually with friends and family by phone calls, video calls, email, Google ‘hang outs’, WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, and the list goes on, to keep us going through this challenging time. Even during physical isolation, it is possible to order what we need online and get it delivered to our doorstep.

The more time I spend in my post as Digital Skills Support at Leuchie, the more I am learning about how technology can transform our guest’s lives, and at no time more than now. If you would like some help downloading and setting up any app or software to help you communicate with others, or you would like to learn how to order groceries online, please get in touch with me

The BBC have recently put together a helpful webpage on how to connect with friends and family by video call if you are self-isolating.

Step-by-step guide: How to video call your family.

Note that you can receive video calls on a desktop computer without installing any software. Some video-calling services such as Skype and Zoom will let you join a chat using your computer's web browser. To do this, you'll need to be invited to a video call by a friend or relative who already has the software installed. See the BBC guide link above for more information.

Here is information on how to set up commonly used communication apps.

Skype for video calls – What is it, how can it help me connect with others, and how can I set it up?

Skype is a free program you can set up to talk to friends and family on your computer or mobile device as a live video chat. You can also send instant messages, videos, and images. I have used it for years to make video calls to my parents and friends, and for personal use, the video and voice calling is free!

All of this is possible through a technology called voiceover IP, or VoIP, which can transmit your voice over the Internet. Skype uses VoIP to let you make phone calls, video calls, or group calls over the Internet instead of using traditional phone lines.

Skype's most popular features, including voice calling, video calling, and instant messaging, are completely free to use. However, using Skype to call landlines or mobile phones does cost money so I would avoid using that!

Click here to see detailed instructions of how to download and install Skype Click on all 3 links within this link to download Skype, create and account, and sign in.

Here is a good step by step guide on how to use Skype once you have set it up, which includes how to set up contacts, how to make voice calls and how to make video calls.

Use Facebook to connect with friends old and new, and share pictures and updates

With over 2 billion active users, Facebook is the most popular social media platform and a way to keep in touch with friends and family. You can search for long lost loves or old school friends and see what they are doing now! Use of Facebook is free because of the adverts on the site.

Facebook links in with a messaging app, Messenger, which allows you to send private messages to a Facebook contact or to a group.

Here is a simple set up guide:

This half hour video link shows how to register for, set up and use Facebook (NB: It has an advert at the beginning which you can skip after a few seconds).

Whatever is WhatsApp?

WhatsApp is a messaging app that lets users to text, chat, and share media, including voice messages and video, with individuals or groups. WhatsApp uses Wifi to send messages so if you have Wifi it doesn’t cost anything extra to send messages, pictures, or make video calls. Personally, I now always try to remember to send photos on WhatsApp rather than be stung by a £1 cost to send a photo via my phone.

The BBC has recently produced a helpful video on how to install and make video calls through WhatsApp.

Step-by-step guide: How to video call your family

Here is a step by step guide on how to install WhatsApp.

How to install WhatsApp

Facetime video calling for Apple devices

Facetime is Apple’s video calling app. This BBC video link has a clear video on how to use Facetime, which is only available on Apple devices.

Step-by-step guide: How to video call your family


In case you are interested in using Zoom’s videoconferencing app, here’s how you can use it with Siri.

Using Siri with Zoom

I hope you find this useful, please email me if you'd like me to give you a call to help out further. Happy connecting!