As I’m sure all of you tech-savvy people know, with Skype and a credit card you can do anything, anytime, anywhere. I was able to have our youngest son’s car repaired and ready for him in one day, our riding lawn mower picked up/serviced/returned to our barn in Michigan, and have pizzas delivered to a sick friend just as if I were calling down the road — all due to Skype and a credit card.
Now, if you know what a Selectric is and still have White-Out in your desk you may ask, what is Skype? (And, for those who know what I’m talking about above, you’ll love this video.)
Skype is, simply, better than sliced bread, on par with landing on the moon, a modern miracle. It’s a way to communicate free or for pennies with anyone, anywhere, anytime. All you do is download the program (see this), enter the names or emails of people you want to talk with, click on their name (assuming they’re on Skype already) and voila — you can call them, chat with them, leave messages for them, all for free. For people who have failed to enter the 21st century and only have telephones, there’s an option to call people anywhere in the world for only pennies. For us in Africa to call computer illiterates like my mother (sorry mom!) it’s less than 2 cents a minute.
This is all a long way of explaining how we keep in contact with friends and family back home — we primarily use Skype to talk or chat and Facebook to share photos and news. I really like the chat feature on Skype because I can write a message and it doesn’t disappear when you log off like it does on Facebook. Then, when, say, my oldest son sees it a few hours later he’ll respond. I might not see the message until that evening and then I respond. So, we have these long running chats that can last an hour or a few days. This morning I woke up around 6 am and Kevin skyped me (midnight his time) and we chatted back and forth for about 30 minutes. Last week my good friend from the Happy Goat Lucky Ewe fiber farm and I talked and caught up on all of the good Michigan gossip (notice that shameless plug Bridge?).
Regarding Facebook, I find it’s a great way to share photos and videos and it’s free as well. Most of my friends on Facebook share some information at least weekly about what’s going on in their lives, and then I can follow-up publicly or privately.
Even though we miss the face-to-face contact of family dinners, two of our sons live out of state anyways and they’re all at that age where they want to and need to be on their own and get some space as adults. (As soon as they have children though, we’re stalking them and moving close-by.)
So, to answer your question Christy, we use Skype and Facebook to stay in touch and find that they allow us to stay close and connected with friends and family — even more so than plain letters or phone calls because we can have these running chat conversations, and, because we’re constantly uploading and sharing photographs. I feel I’ve been able to maintain and deepen some relationships through these social networking programs and have even made some friends via the blogosphere. Of course, we all need that occasional face-to-face contact so in May we’re going to visit our oldest son who’s currently studying abroad in the West Indies and then we’re going up to Michigan to see friends and spend time with our youngest son. In August, the middle and youngest sons will come visit us; the oldest one plans to come in January. At Christmas we all plan to reunite somewhere warm, preferably with a beach (and hopefully with grandparents, siblings and nieces). Other relatives and friends plan to visit us here either this year or in 2012. One of my dear former students, who’s been a professor for many years now, is coming with her family for Thanksgiving.
All-in-all, it feels like I have a very active 21st-century-type social life!