July 21, 2009

skype is the hype — or is it?

Ooooh, we recently downloaded Skype. My parents and uncles have been using Skype for years now, but to me it was just this weird chat thing.

Now that we have a son, I realized how convenient and fun it is to be able to see our relatives and for them to see our son. We have family all over the country, and all over the world, from Washington to Virginia to Germany. Since we’re all so scattered, it’s a nice way for them to see our son — sort of a day to day window into our lives here.

I recently read a funny and insightful essay by Peggy Orenstein about Skype. She concludes that Skype isn’t for her and her family, and that she prefers the old school way of communicating — well, recent old school ways like emailing photos.

I’m not great about sending photos. By the time I mail or email them, they are months old. So Skype is really growing on me. Plus, our relatives don’t really get to see what our son is really like and what he sounds like. Since our son’s talking a lot more now, it’s fun to see him communicate with his family members from afar. He’s even talked to relatives he’s never met before, or those he’s only met once when he was a baby, and now repeats their names as if they are his best friends.

The thing I don’t like about Skype is that it’s another activity where we end up sitting in front of the computer, staring at the screen. We try to limit our son’s screen time because he is only two. Still, I’m finding it’s a nice way of connecting to family members.

At first, I think our son was a little weirded out by the whole thing — you know, seeing his grandparents on the computer, though they’re not actually here. After Skyping he’d seem all cranky and out of sorts. Now, he will ask to see his grandparents and uncles and cousins. And dogs. He loves my sister’s and parents’ dogs and will ask to see them too.

In the end though, I’m not really afraid of us spending too much time on Skype. Our tot can only sit still for so long, especially if it’s just staring at a person’s face. Doesn’t matter even if that person is his beloved wai po (maternal grandma). He’s so used to seeing stuff on the computer that has a lot more motions, music and colors.

And it is a little awkward sometimes, just sitting and staring at each other. Actually, most of the time we’re not even looking at each other. Skypers, it seems, are usually looking down or at some other point, but not directly into the camera.

Usually within a few minutes of chatting, my son’s ready to say bye and will jump off my lap to practice his dance moves.