Opinions

Skype kills or Skype heals?

Distance kills, yes it does. Separation from a loved one – be it your lover currently posted to work in London, your son currently deployed to maintain peace in Afghanistan, or that best friend you wished you could spend every living moment with – face it, separation is utterly painful.

In this day and age of wonderful technology, many of us have multiple tools at hand to stay connected. In fact, there are so many out there that we have turned their names into verbs – “Hey, are you free to Skype?” or “Whatsapp me!” – just to name a few.

Perhaps the question we all have to ask ourselves is this: have these tools really facilitated communication? Or have they brought about new problems?

 

Facilitating communication by making it as real as possible

In making such a seemingly sweeping statement, one issue we have to come to terms with is this: Has Skype been able to so accurately replicate the feeling of oneness such that all feelings of longing for this person based far away is nullified?

From personal recounts, I have heard how some people missed their pets or local food much more than their friends and family, simply because they still felt connected with them. So what is it about Skype that reduces the distance felt?

 

1. Video calls

In the video above, memories created over Skype from all around the world were compiled. And even though your story was not featured above, I am sure you can testify about the goodness that Skype (now part of Microsoft after their acquisition in 2011) and other tech giants like Facebook Chat and the Apple Facetime have bestowed upon you. Very evidently, these platforms have been able to create these valuable moments for you because of their video function. Emotions can literally be heard, seen and felt over the video calls.

 

2. Group video calls

And even more real than a single person video call? You got it. Group video calls. Although Skype only offers this service for free during a limited trial period, other platforms such as Google+ Hangouts, Oovoo and meetings.io (now a part of Jive Software) have positioned their key functions to comprise conference calls ability. Their rationale? Social circles are more than just two lonely souls pulled away from each other across the globe.

 

3. Sending/Receiving photos and other files

And just like how we will take out old photo albums or notes to reminisce with our loved ones, Skype also allows for easy file transfers over the digital realm. Moreover, the best part of file transfers over digital media has got to be the huge archive of files and web images that we have access to via Google, Facebook and other social media channels.

 

4. Screen sharing

Just to top it up, real-time screen sharing is made possible via Skype as well. This allows for an exchange of knowledge using the vast information treasures online.

The couple of things Skype and its counterparts cannot do yet? Tactile and smell transmission. But as with all things tech, who knows what could be possible in the near future?

Google launches Google Nose scent search as part of April Fools’ 2013

 

Killing real interactions

 

1. Frequency of Skype conversations

Skype conversations often do not happen as frequently as they should. One prominent reason is the fact that they have not been very well used on the mobile phone – the device we are literally hooked onto. This lack of usage could be attributed to the weak connections established over the 3G networks. One company known as Vsee, however, has boasted of its ability to tap on half of Skype’s bandwidth at the same video quality, thereby being the preferred choice when using the 3G networks.

One other reason could be the availability of other convenient apps that likewise facilitate international communication. These apps include Whatsapp, Line and Viber, all of which offer only free text messaging or calls over the data networks. However, more often that not, users have found these as great replacements to the inability of Skype to stream video calls when the data network is not at its strongest.

 

2. Lack of tactile and smell transmissions

As mentioned above, even though video calls have greatly imitated the way real life interactions should be, the lack of tactile and smell transmissions could still serve as a constant reminder that we are still, in fact, only interacting virtually.

And of all the bad breakups that happened over Skype, perhaps some of them could have been prevented if Skype never existed and one had to wait till the return of his/her partner to break the news. This is one mystery that shall never be solved with the advent of this convenient tool.

 

3. Nothing beats some real life interaction

Chemistry between individuals simply does not seem to happen online. This is one golden rule I believe we all have to begin to live by.

 

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