Sometime between counting the days before she left for her freshman year of college and predicting she’d not return til Thanksgiving, my daughter apparently decided she just might miss me a little bit. Or maybe she feared my reaction to the empty nest after 28 years of full-time motherhood.
This wouldn’t have occurred to me. Though Skype has been around for seven years, my experience with it was mostly spotty audio conference calls that were more irritating than anything.
“Trust me,” Tori said as she clipped the webcam to my monitor. “You’ll love this.”
When we dropped her off at her dorm on Monday, I was once again reminded of one of the best years of my life. (Freedom! Boys! All-you-can eat ice cream!) I hated to leave – not just because we’re very close and I enjoy her company, but because nothing makes a mother happier than seeing her child happy. And I knew she was about to have the time of her life.
That’s why Skype pretty much rocks my world.
No, it’s not quite the same as being in the same room. We won’t be able to push each other around laughing, “I keel you!” or hang out on the couch watching Kathy Griffin.
But it’s close.
Texts and calls and pictures are great. Actually seeing my daughter as we talk is much better. We video chatted once while she was at the student center, where her friends were on either side of the table, and guys were shooting pool behind her. Usually she’s sitting at her desk below her Lil Wayne poster, applying or removing her makeup.
I am unabashedly in love with this application, and encourage anyone else with distant loved ones to try it.
For no charge, Skype offers the ability to make voice or video calls and send instant messages to other Skype users. You can also pay for services such as making calls from a PC to a landline or cell phone, which is why some users are giving up their more costly landlines for Skype accounts.
Thanks to Skype and all the other video chat programs, including gmail voice and video chat, children and spouses of U.S. soldiers stationed overseas can actually see each other when they talk once or twice a week. Grandparents hundreds of miles away can video chat between visits.
Fewer people need to fly across the country to get to a meeting. Teachers use it in the classrooms to interview guest speakers, and connect to other students around the world.
Kan Shao, a grad student at Eastern Michigan University, uses QQ to video chat with his family in China two or three times a week.
“Video chat lets me confirm that my father is in good condition,” he said. “Seeing his face makes me feel safe.”
I read about a family who keeps an eye on their elderly father by keeping the man’s computer turned on to Skype. If he’s in trouble, they’ll know about it. Meanwhile, he feels less isolated.
Oprah Winfrey is a huge Skype supporter who likes to spread money around. Wouldn’t it be great if she made video chats available to nursing homes and assisted living centers, and encouraged volunteers to check in on them via Skype? It’s certainly a more important use of it than featuring yet another guest via Skype – especially when there are so many real live guests in the audience eager to talk.
After all, just because something can be done doesn’t mean there’s a good reason to do it.
Most people now prefer texting over calling, and several people I talked to said they don’t want anyone seeing them in the privacy of their home. (“The horror!”) I can’t imagine video chatting with someone I don’t know fairly well, and feel no need to use it to talk to people I see regularly.
But I would like to get my three out-of-state brothers on Skype so we can stay more closely in touch. Facebook helps, but can’t compare to the immediacy of a video chat.
Here are 25 other ways to use Skype, some of which I intend to try as soon as I finish clearing a corner of Tori’s room for my yoga studio.
An empty nest has its perks.
For the pits, there is Skype.
About the author: Jo Mathis is an Ann Arbor-based writer. Her columns appear monthly in The Chronicle.