How Apple keeps my far-flung family together

Modern technology gets a bad rap for creating distance between people (how many tiresome memes have we all seen depicting people playing on their iPhones instead of talking to each other?)

For the Caolo family -- which began in 1970‘s Scranton, Pennsylvania and today is spread across Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Florida -- Apple's computers and software are literally, part of the family. The part that keeps us together.

"Not long ago," my mom told me during a FaceTime interview for this article, "telephones and email were the limit of contact from afar. Today, Grandma and Grandpa (my husband and I) use a MacBook Air and one iPad each."

"When we hear the message alert tone, we look forward to seeing what it is, especially photos. But our favorite app is Path."

"It’s the next best thing to being there and it feels like our own corner of social media. I use Pic Stitch (universal, free with in-app purchases) to create photo collages of special events like birthdays and holiday greetings. We share photos of the change of seasons from our various locations and to see what flowers are blooming at our respective homes."

Path is probably the application the Caolos use most, and it’s almost certainly all my fault.

My sister Melissa explains: "My husband and I joined Path at your invitation, when your daughter wanted some social media account or other she was deemed too young to have. I signed up mostly to cheer up my niece (and my brother, who was feeling like the mean Dad with a daughter who was punishing him for his decision). Other family members joined; my sister (In Pennsylvania), husband (with me in NYC) and both my parents (Florida). Since then my in-laws (Arizona) have joined and my nephew (Cape Cod) has gotten old enough to have an iPad and join the network."

Path is a simple, ad-free social netowrk that's for small, intimate groups. It's invite-only, with features like Inner Circle, which restricts messages to your hand-selected contacts. You can even share moments that are for you and you alone.

Imagine a service like Facebook that prevented anyone from seeing your updates unless you gave them permission to do so. It's friendly, simple and intimate. We love it and you'll find the iPhone and Android apps here.

"Path lets me connect to the people I care about most without having to consider people from other ares of my life. I don't have to edit my posts wondering if my colleagues need to see cutsey posts between me and my niece and nephews, funny pictures of my cat, or whatever else I feel is just for family. It allows me to see posts from the kid perspective of a 10 and 12 year old (and photos taken from the height of a 10 and 12 year old) which is a great way for an out-of-town auntie to keep up with the kids."

Erin agrees. "Path is used only with family, which is how I personally prefer to keep up with all of us out of town. I feel we all know what is generally happening with each other, and are a part of each other's days, despite distance."

Static photos, quick videos and check-ins are good for daily interaction, but FaceTime is where the iPad really anchors the Caolo family. "We get to watch our grandchildren open birthday gifts, laughing and talking, being silly and having fun," mom writes. "We FaceTime when in or out of the US without a problem."

"Opening Christmas gifts over FaceTime when we can't get together in person is great," Erin says. "We laugh, goof around and show off our stuff as if we were in the same room."

Apple tells us: "Everything changes with iPad.” It’s true. That pocketful of glass, steel and software can share a photo of a Florida sunset from my parents’ home, or show me the flowers blooming in Erin's yard, or make me laugh at Melissa's cat in her cat hammock. Sharing a cute moment from my kids with people who love them melts the hundreds or even thousands of miles distance between them. Thank you, Apple and developers everywhere. Being connected is better and more possible than ever before.

The Caolos appreciate it more than you know.