Vintage Russian phone found in Moscow illustrating how immigrants keep in touch

With so many ways to keep in touch, let’s never talk again

Last updated on February 19, 2024

I spend a lot of time downloading Facebook photos, uploading them to an email and sending them to my parents, where, I suspect, they will sit for all eternity in their inboxes. We, like most families, used to have albums, but now we have attachments we will never find again. As usual, we have an extra layer of “how immigrants keep in touch” on top of it.

This is how my parents keep up with our family that’s scattered around Canada and Israel. More accessible than ever before – if you know how to friend them.

This is how my parents kept in touch through the 80s:

  • They shouted into the phone at any hour of the day, yelling louder and louder with every passing minute, as if that would solve all the problems of distance
  • They tracked down anyone who was travelling to the Soviet Union, so they could send parcels – usually stereos, jeans and baby clothes. Sometimes, towards the end, money.
  • They wrote a lot of letters
  • They printed off photos and mailed them. I found some of those photos in my grandfather’s apartment last spring.

This is what I do:

  • Peruse an endless stream of photos – my cousin’s wife’s modelling career, my brother’s recent newspaper recommendations, my great-aunt’s 80th birthday celebration, my 3rd-cousin’s ski trip with her new boyfriend
  • Sometimes I “like” a photo. Those are the photos that usually get sent to my parents.
  • Try, unsuccessfully, to identify which Boris and which Grisha are mine on a long list of Borises and Grishas with Skype accounts

This is what I don’t do:

  • Anything that involves leaving my computer and interacting with the family in question. I have one cousin with whom I’ve recently started, how to put it, interacting, on Facebook. He leaves comments on my post, usually political, usually something we don’t agree with. I enjoy the banter. We each report back to my parents on our sudden connection online. We don’t directly address each other. I have no idea how his wife and kids are doing.

Since “staying in touch” has really morphed into “keeping tabs on” I can probably go on indefinitely without ever speaking to anyone again. Welcome to the future of family.

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