“Skype,” Ashley Tway (2011) — Inquiry 1

My alarm starts to beep and I roll over to look at my clock. Five-thirty in the morning. I immediately jolt out of bed and a smile spreads across my face. I quickly glance out my window to notice the sun barely beginning to creep across the horizon. It is April Eighteenth, Friday, and the first day of spring break, but most importantly, my birthday. If I was any normal kid, I would definitely be sleeping in right now – but I am not a normal kid and I want nothing more to be wide awake. I head over to my computer and log into Skype as my anticipation grew. A minute later, my dad’s face flashes onto my screen as I hear him say “Happy Birthday, Sweetie!” At this time, my father is deployed in Afghanistan while the rest of my family lives in Incirlik, Turkey – the Air Force base my father is stationed at. Due to the work that he is doing in Afghanistan,  I am only able to talk to him at certain times during the day, usually early in the morning or late at night. Of course, it is hard having my father deployed, especially on an important day like my birthday, but the invention of technologies such as Skype, which allow me to actually see my father’s face as he wish me “happy birthday” definitely make it easier.

As a “military brat,” I am really thankful for the way technology has developed, making it much easier for me to communicate with people all around the world. Besides my immediate family, I only get to see my relatives every couple of years, so Skype allows me to keep in contact with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other family who live in a different country. Living all over the world – in 3 continents and 7 countries, to be exact – I have friends everywhere. While most of my peers probably lived a few minutes away from most of their close friends, many of my friends did not even live on the same continent as me, let alone country, state, or city. As one can imagine, international calling costs are outrageous, especially if I am talking to my friends on the phone multiple times a week, so the invention of Skype basically saved my life, or at least my bank account. Facebook and Yahoo! and MSN messengers were helpful, but also impersonal. These technologies worked if I wanted to gives my friends quick updates of my life or briefly catch up, but nothing compares to the face-to-face interaction that I get from Skype – besides seeing them in person, of course.

Now that I am in college, I use Skype more than ever. Like many of my peers, I am away from home for the first time, but for me I am not just a few hour car ride away from my family, I am a twelve-hour plane ride away. Even if my family lived in a different state across the country, I could still probably fly home for a long weekend or Thanksgiving Break, but with my family living in Germany, this is a little impractical. However, whenever I miss my parents I can log onto Skype and see their face, instead of just sending them a Facebook message or hearing their voice over the phone. When I miss my dogs, I can ask my parents or siblings to show me them on Skype and I can see their tails wagging. It is not as good as actually being able to pet them, and I cannot imagine that technology will allow us to do this any time in the near future, but it is pretty much as close as I can get to actually seeing them. For many of my peers, it is probably a new experience for their primary contact with their family and friends back home to be over the phone or the internet, but for me, it has become the norm. Yesterday, I used Skype to help my little sister, who is just starting her junior year of high school, pick out an outfit for the first day of school. I even saw my newborn baby cousin on Skype for the first time. It is things like this that make me extremely thankful for how far technology has come in changing the way that people are able to communicate with others all across the world.

When I am communicating with someone, I like to be able to see their expressions, hear the tone of their voice, and really feel like there is a connection between us. With Skype, unlike many other technologies, I am able to do this. I do not have to waste my time over-analyzing every single word in a text or email. Are they trying to be sarcastic? Funny? Serious? What exactly does that wink face mean? Even when talking to someone on the phone and hearing their voice, it is sometimes hard to tell what they really mean. Luckily, with Skype, I am able to read people and truly get that face-to-face interaction, no matter if they are in a different city, country, continent – or even in the next room. I would not say Skype has “changed” the way we communicate, but rather enhanced our communication with others – taking us back to the basics of having a simple conversation, without text speak and smiley faces – even if they are miles away.