Picture a soldier. He knows three things for sure: one, he is fighting and willing to perish for the country to which he is loyal; two, he is one million miles from home; and three, he has had to leave behind everything and everyone he loves. His question soon arises: Will I ever see my family and friends again? In previous wars, soldiers wrote to their mothers and wives in letters and telegrams. Today, soldiers have the option of seeing and talking to their family and friends via Skype, a technology that allows people to hold video conversations. Skype is a positive technological advancement that bridges the gap between faceless communication and, more importantly, human interaction—the priceless element of a face-to-face conversation.
A majority of communication used today focuses on “faceless” and/or “voiceless” mediums of exchanging information. Examples include e-mail, IM, texting, Twitter, Facebook, and the list continues. With these programs and others like them, a person is communicating with someone without ever seeing the other individual’s face or hearing the other person’s voice. More than likely, other people have “profiles” of themselves on social networking sites, but where is the proof that they are who they say they are? On Facebook, for example, people have the option of adding or eliminating anything including minor and/or major details of their life. Unfortunately, some take it to the next level and become a completely different person—a fake profile, a “pretty” predator.
With Skype, “seeing is believing.” The individual on the other side of the screen is that person. People can be themselves where there are no masked identities. It is much easier for individuals to take on different personas in written words than it is for them to physically transform into someone else. Skype does not have a “middle man temptation,” where people have the option to deceptively “alter” or completely change their profiles. The program can also provide a sense of security knowing that people are who they claim to be. For example, soldiers overseas may have the option of “Skyping” their family and/or friends on certain occasions. When family members and friends see their beloved soldiers and speak to them once again, the family and friends are reassured that their son or daughter, husband or wife, or best friend is safe and alive.
Skype combines real time video technology with human speaking ability to provide users with an experience similar to an in-person conversation. David Gannon, a reporter for Canton, Ohio’s newspaper, The Repository, claims in his article, “Be Smart About Your Smartphone Use,” “People who frequently use smart phones may be losing the skills necessary for direct social interaction and communication. What appears to be greater interconnectedness with others may be just the opposite as people substitute texts, emails, posts, and calls for face-to-face interaction.” Unlike the listed substitutions, real conversations involve personality, facial expression, body language, and the accents and intonations of voices. Talking to people face-to-face has more worth than sending the text “How r u?” People will feel more encouraged to expand on how they really feel during a genuine conversation as opposed to taking the time to type out all of the details in a long text. Details, however small they may be, are part of the human experience and deserve to be recognized fully, not half-heartedly. Skype, in response, allows for more social comfort and confidence when a serious, detailed, conversation is needed.
Many issues with communication occur because of misinterpreted or mistyped messages sent digitally. Text messages are lifeless and generic; they may not correctly convey what an individual is trying to get across. Excessive use or lack of punctuation and/or emoticons can only go so far in portraying a person’s emotion in a text or on a status post. Seeing people actually smiling and presenting their honest emotions holds higher value than “ (= ” in a text message. In addition, focus is missing in digital communication. People know there is another individual on the other end of the text but neither person’s whereabouts matter. One or both of the individuals could be distracted with something else entirely. In general, a person has little to no option for distractions during a Skype conversation because the individual on the other side of the screen can see whom they are talking to. Many people believe that texting is faster, easier, and “less awkward” than an actual conversation. In cases of “small talk” or giving someone factual, quick information, texting is okay. However, if a person desires to talk about a serious situation or just wants to catch up, a face-to-face conversation is necessary. Successful communication requires full attentiveness and respect from both speaker and listener so that miscommunication does not occur.
There are seven continents, thousands of countries, millions of cities, and billions of people—Skype has the ability to connect to, virtually, all of them. Skype is available on laptops, desktops, tablets, and televisions. A similar program like Skype, called FaceTime, is an app accessible on smartphones and some i-pods. Most recently, people have the opportunity to Skype with several people at once. It is the advanced “three-way phone call.” With such portability and an endless number of connection possibilities, people can experience what it is like to “be in two places at once.” For example, say the time has come for a woman to give birth to her firstborn. Her husband’s job requires him to be on call and ready to rush out for emergency work. Though the husband cannot be there for the birth, his wife uses the FaceTime app on her i-Phone to talk to and see her husband while showing him his newborn son. Skype helps people avoid missing the “big” moments in life.
Skype has been underestimated and underutilized. The program is not limited to leisurely conversations between friends. People in the workforce, in education and other specific occupations can use Skype for several tech-savvy benefits. Educators can use Skype for interactive lectures, guest speakers, assigning small-group Skype discussions, or tutoring students. Church pastors can speak with missionaries in the mission field, mentor or pray with people in the hospital, and converse with sister-church pastors. Business leaders, to conduct meetings, and to connect with cross-country associates can also use Skype. Students can work together on projects from home, help each other on difficult schoolwork, and study with each other. Campus-living college students, soldiers, out-of-state relatives as well as countless others can use Skype to contact family and friends back home.
Skype has broken the barriers of technology in ways that connect people with the ability to converse and see other people wherever and whenever they desire. The next time someone says, “Let’s keep in touch,” take their word for it and catch up with weekly Skype chats. People should use the natural gift of human interaction and the present technology to their advantage. Even though nothing compares to a face-to-face conversation, when people want to catch up with old friends, Skype is the next best option to meeting for coffee. They could even meet for coffee over Skype; the possibilities are endless.