When my partner and I had our first kid last year, there was a whole component of childbirth I was unprepared for: the long-distance notification of family members. It became a thing in our household. Having married an introvert, I am normally the communicator in our household. (See: emotional labor.) But since I was physically bearing the brunt of pregnancy and was not about to add emotional labor to very physical labor, when it came time for our son to be born, Michael became keeper of the rolodex. His job: alert our families when the baby was on the way and get the first few photos to my parents and siblings shortly after he was born. And my social-anxiety-prone husband took this job very seriously. To the extent that for our joint parental leave, he sent out regular update emails to our families, staged all those cutesy week-by-week photos you can’t escape on Instagram, and kept a running Google album of the most up-to-date images of the baby.
But then we both went back to work. And soon the Google album became neglected, the emails stopped, and our communication became a hodge-podge of Instagram updates, group texts wherein I inevitably forget someone, and the occasional Snapchat. So when Meg mentioned that a friend of hers had recently turned their wedding website into a family website, I was intrigued. And the more I think about it, the more I’m really into the idea. Here’s why.
Websites are elderly-friendly
When Lincoln was born, Michael’s ninety-something-year-old grandmother signed up for an Instagram account since she knew that would be the only way to see up-to-date photos of her great-grandchild. Which makes me feel like an asshole to type out. With Squarespace, however, you can incorporate your Instagram feed directly into your website, so you can still live your life through your preferred social media channels, but this way your grandparents don’t have to figure out newfangled apps on their smartphones. (Just give them the URL to your page and call it a day.) Or if you aren’t an active social media user, you can simply upload a gallery to your website when the mood strikes. Either way, it seems kinder than making them figure out the algorithms.
Create a digital time capsule
I feel fortunate that my wedding website is still alive and kicking. (It’s ten years old, and I’m pretty sure internet time is basically the same as dog years.) It’s fun looking back and seeing how twenty-two-year-old Maddie described her relationship (and the photos that go with it). In a way, I wish I could get that same nostalgia fix for every year of our marriage. If I had my shit together, here’s what I’d do today: once a year, I’d go through all my favorite photos and create printed albums using one of those bougie online photo book companies. And then I’d upload a digital version of the same album to my wedding-website-turned-family-website. That way I can have both my physical photos when I want to pick up a book from my coffee table, and a digital scrapbook to share and reminisce over. And bless them, Squarespace even has a template specifically set up for this purpose. Which, unlike my very 2009 wedding website, you have unlimited opportunities to update and tweak as you go. So you can always add pages, change your template, and let it be a living breathing document of your life.
P.S. One of the upsides of Squarespace being a paid service (at a very manageable $12 a month) is that I’m much less concerned they are going to up and delete my website one day on a whim. Which I certainly can’t say for my actual wedding website, which will likely go missing one of these days.
Send out that holiday newsletter
Every year my grandparents put together a holiday newsletter. It’s a running joke in my family that depending on our current standing in the family, one of us might make it into the newsletter’s highlights reel, and in any given year, one of us might get the ax (there’s only so much you can fit on an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper, and Nana doesn’t have time for your mediocrity). Meg’s friend, who I mentioned above, originally started her own family website as a way to send out a holiday newsletter. And I secretly love the idea of taking this tradition and making it digital. Firstly, a digital newsletter saves paper. And postage. But the best part is that you don’t have to limit your recipient list. One of Squarespace’s recently launched features is a brand-new email marketing tool. And while it’s geared toward businesses, I like the idea of using it for family newsletters. For those of us with far-flung family like mine, you can use your newsletter to show off pictures of your recent vacation, or your kid’s first birthday, or whatever else might make the distance feel a little less far.
Get off Social Media
If you’re like me, you might be trying to actively limit your time spent on social media. So if nothing else, having a dedicated website for your life updates and photo albums keeps you from falling down a scroll hole every time you want to find a picture from your holiday party. Not to mention, as any of us with MySpace pages can attest, you never know when a social media platform might become obsolete. As an added bonus, with Squarespace, you can choose to keep your website as private or public as you want. Password protect certain pages, or your whole site, and prevent Google from showing off whenever your future employer searches your name. That way, only the people who matter most can peek into your life. And they don’t have to field wildly inaccurate political rants from their step-cousin twice removed while they’re at it.
I keep joking that all I want this year is the old internet back. You know, when community and self expression were cool fringe benefits and no one’s parents were on Facebook yet. And while I don’t necessarily want the old internet’s building tools (2009 can keep its wedding websites, thanks), I think it’s time we reimagined what a website can be used for. I’m genuinely considering taking all of the hard work we put into holiday cards and Google albums this year, and putting together a family website to serve as a living document of our digital lives (actually, I basically have half of one done thanks to this post, and it took less than an hour—thanks to that template I mentioned above and the metric ton of photos on my phone). Now if I can just get my partner to manage said family website, I’ll be golden.
This post was sponsored by Squarespace. Squarespace makes it easy to build a wedding—or family!—website in a matter of minutes, thanks to their user-friendly software and modern, designer website templates. Every yearly Squarespace purchase also comes with a custom domain, and of course, their award-winning customer service (just in case you get stuck). Click here to start a free 14-day trial and make your wedding website today. APW readers get 10% off your first Squarespace purchase when you use the code APW18 at checkout.