In modern society, family connection is much lower compared to the past. This can be attributed to the increasing trend of single households and an individualistic lifestyle which induces not only physical but also psychological distance between one another. According to Statistics Korea’s Population and Housing Census, the portion of single households marked 27.2 percent in 2015 and is expected to show an increasing trend. In order to combat this social phenomenon, an elderly couple Lee Chan-jae and An Kyong-ja used social media to facilitate intra-familial communication.
Their Instagram account “drawings_for_my_grandchildren” currently has approximately 39 million followers. In 2015, their children and grandchildren, who lived together in Brazil, returned to Korea and the United States to find a job. Due to the separation, the couple had to console their loneliness through artworks and writings. With the aid and encouragement from their son working at the marketing department of Facebook, they started using social networking services.
In the beginning, the couple uploaded short writings and pictures to send messages to their grandchildren. However, they expanded their work by dealing with a variety of themes and topics about life. Due to the popularity and the warmth of the quotes and illustrations, the story of the couple had even been broadcasted on major media outlets including National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Guardian, and Rede Globo, which is one of Brazil’s largest broadcasting companies.
“We feel the greatest sense of achievement when creating artworks suitable for a theme,” An said. “We are also satisfied when our children give us compliments on the works. Based on these feedbacks, we have discussions about our artworks or writings that go along with it.”
The inspiration for the artworks come from many aspects of life: watching news or documentaries, communicating with our middle-school grandchildren, receiving videos and photos of our grandchild living in New York, and taking a walk around the park while recalling the old days. When a certain idea pops in An’s mind, she takes notes in order to remind herself of it later on.
While using social media platforms, Lee and An consider adapting to the updates of these platforms as one of the challenges they face. For instance, the most used platform, Instagram has been continuously updating its function, so they had to catch up with the new updates.
They also mentioned several memorable stories.
“Users from different cultures come together and add comments,” Lee and An said. “Comments providing information about the history of Brazil, dynamic reactions regarding a certain name of a place mentioned in our writings, and the request from a daughter wanting to give Lee’s flower picture for her sick mother as a last gift has provided us with unforgettable moments. We were also touched by the comments mentioning that they want to grow old and mature like us in the future.”
Due to the recent tendency towards individualistic lifestyle, the bond between family members are weakening. Lee and An shared their thoughts on this phenomenon.
“We emphasize the cooperation between family members. The process of completing the artworks involve our family members to cooperate.”
For instance, Lee draws a picture for his grandchildren, An leaves a writing about the picture, and their son and daughter translate the artwork respectively into English and Portuguese. Furthermore, their son makes and uploads a video on social media on the background story of Lee and An creating an Instagram account.
“This unique structure brings about trivial life stories which can be empathized with people around the world,” Lee and An said. “It is essential to observe the interests or the capacities of old parents. In a generation where people live up to 100 years, keeping track of the health and lives of one’s parents can improve the bond between family members. Sharing abilities such as having neat handwriting and good photography skills can create an atmosphere of executing the work with grandchildren in a cooperative manner.”
Concepts for drawings will develop along with the versatile world. Moreover, they plan to record Lee’s song later on since he is practicing diligently by memorizing the lyrics of performances by popular singers.
“We consider that youths are currently living in a challenging generation where knowledge is crucial in a competitive society, so we respect them,” Lee and An commented. “Several advice for them is to have pride in one’s country and to read a lot of books.”