When my parents moved to Hong Kong in the 1970s, they were essentially cut off from the rest of the world. Phone calls to the UK were only made in emergencies, or on Christmas Day after the Queen's Speech. Air mail letters took several days to reach home, and were mainly exchanged between family - friends only tended to communicate at Christmas card time.
But moving to America in 2009 was a totally different story. Yes, I missed my friends, but I knew almost as much about what they were up to as when I lived in London. Thanks to email and particularly to Facebook, I didn't forget what their children looked like or how they were growing up, or what the significant events were in their lives. Not only that, we were able to comment on the same world events, even gossip about stuff via message threads. For keeping in touch with family, there was Skype - so my children didn't have to forget what Grandad looks like or who their lovely great Aunt is.
I was asked to contribute to a blog post on this subject by relocation company Robinsons. What struck me is that it seems most expats agree - whatever you think of Mark Zuckerberg, (and I'm looking forward to reading Dave Eggers' book The Circle which takes a satirical look at social networks), Facebook and Skype are invaluable inventions if you're living apart from friends and family.
Now that we're back from the US, at least I can keep in touch with my American friends in the same way. I have to say that I already feel I'm losing touch with the ones who aren't on Facebook (although I'm encouraging the Facebook refuseniks to at least download Skype. After all, that doesn't have any privacy implications, which I presume is why they are reluctant to join).
If you live abroad, what's your favourite way of communicating?