If you’ve got children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews in Generation Y, you might be totally baffled by how impersonal their lives seem these days. “Nobody knows how to talk to people anymore,” you’ve heard, and maybe that rings true when it comes to your own loved ones.
But before you throw your arms up in frustration and write them off, assuming they just don’t care about staying in touch now that they’re grown, try to understand the differences in the cultures you grew up in.
Kids growing up now connect with people differently, and in more ways and on different levels, than you connected with people growing up. They don’t have to meet for coffee or even pick up the phone to catch up with friends. Through Facebook, they can get updates from hundreds of friends at once, and through email and texting, they can fit conversations around their hectic schedules.
Sure, you probably want them to slow down once in awhile and take the time to come over for dinner or chat on the phone, and you should ask for that. But you can also reach into their world — and you can keep in touch, even if you don’t want to take the plunge into joining Facebook.
Here are some tips to help keep you connected (from a bonafide member of the digitally-run and screen-obsessed Generation Y):
Send a text before you call
Do you feel like they’re avoiding your calls? Maybe you’re just not catching them at the right time. In their carefully-scheduled and information-packed lives, unplanned phone calls might actually be unusual. Send a quick text before you call to make sure they’re available to answer — and to let them know you respect their time.
Text or email instead of calling
On the other hand, maybe they are avoiding your calls. Do you call every day with small bits of information or quick questions? You could probably share a lot of it more quickly through a text or short email, and save everyone the time of making small talk to fill a phone conversation. If you only call when you want to have a meaningful conversation, they’ll be more likely to pick up.
Take your conversations and updates to email. They’re checking it every day (probably several times), so you’ll be able to reach them where they are. Email conversations allow you both to stay in touch and have deeper talks on your own time, in case your schedules don’t sync well.
Take advantage of birthday cards
A card for an occasion is a great way to share an old-fashioned note without sending a full-on letter. Whether you hand it over in person or send it through the mail, include thoughtful notes in birthday and holiday cards. They may not write you back, but know that they’ll read it and appreciate your personal touch.
Follow their Twitter feed
This sounds like weird advice for someone avoiding social media, but it’s actually quite simple. Most people on Twitter keep their feeds public, so you don’t have to have an account of your own to see them. This is a perfect way to keep up with friends and family who travel a lot or do different and interesting things day-to-day, but whom you can’t touch base with often enough to stay up-to-date. Following their Twitter updates allows you to keep up with them on their terms, without jumping into the social media yourself.
Don’t be sneaky, though! Let them know you’re reading their updates, so they don’t feel like they’re being spied on.
Don’t complain that they never call you!
Members of Gen Y are accustomed to keeping up with everyone in their lives on Facebook, Twitter, email, etc. Lengthy phone calls just aren’t the norm for some people anymore, so don’t be offended or angry if they don’t call as often as you’d expect. Call them when you want to talk, and try to compromise by keeping in touch via text or email, as well.
Give Facebook a try
Finally, don’t knock it till you try it. You can get on Facebook without making yourself public or being bothered by hundreds of people you don’t want to connect with. Learn the various privacy settings, and just use the platform to follow updates from and send quick messages to your close friends and family.
Have you tried staying in touch with your family through social media?