Video Chat Me Up

Posted on December 28, 2011


An astute fan of mine, sometimes called Sande, other times called my son-in-law’s dad, alerted me to a piece in the NY Times about how family traditions have gone the way of everything else: into some virtual alternate universe world in which things just magically appear that look real but are probably figments of my imagination.

Skype, for example, has become a part of everyday life, allowing families to be together across thousand of miles without worrying about airfares, schedules, or flatulence. Along with Starbucks creating the need to drink bitter coffee around the clock, it has changed the way we live.

According to the Times, “with the proliferation of built-in-cameras and microphones on computers and mobile devices, broadband connections and program refinements, an average of 300 million minutes of Skype video calls are made each day globally.”  This translates to approximately 25.3 hours of grandchild watching for each grandparent per day.

So, unless the only screen you ever look into is the one on the back door of a cabin located somewhere in the 1800s, you have probably heard of Skype or have even used it. Holidays, birthdays, graduations, and kiddie dance recitals are all shared on Skype.  Marriage proposals, divorce requests, and even funerals are shared. The possibilities are endless, leading to a completely successful birth to death scenario, without ever having to get out of one’s pajamas.

The article cites a woman who we’ll call Jamie, since that is her actual name. Jamie moved from CA to Ohio, three months before her baby was to be born.  Her friends, concerned that she would be lonely in her new home, threw her a Skype baby shower.  They placed the expectant mom on the mantle, and had a rollicking good time for five hours.  This could never have been accomplished in real life, since placing a six months pregnant woman on a mantel for five hours would be impossible, unless one allowed her frequent bathroom breaks.

In a recent update to the story, Jamie’s friends gathered together again, when Jamie went into labor.  This time, they allowed her to be in bed and were able to successfully deliver her healthy baby boy. Eventually, when Jamie was able to travel, she came back to CA to retrieve her son.

But be aware that Skyping has its downside.  One mother of a 23 month old was  complaining that her husband, who videochats several times a week with his daughter from his study, hasn’t actually seen her in person since she was 3 weeks old.  The lesson here is that if you do Skype regularly with loved ones, make sure you come downstairs every once in a while and get some face time with them.  Be warned, though, that they will be composed of more than a head and torso. This might be disconcerting to you at first, but if you spend enough time with them, you’ll get used to it.

And if you deliver a friend’s baby via Skype, don’t forget the clean towels.