“Wherever you are, wherever they are — Skype keeps you together”
If you haven’t heard of Skype, you’re about ten years behind. On August 29, 2003, Skype went live for the first time. According to Time Magazine, in 2011 Skype’s, “biggest selling point was that users could make free voice calls to each other from anywhere in the world.”
You read right folks; this means if you are walking along The Great Wall of China and your best friend is studying abroad and snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef you two could talk for free! Better yet, you could visually see what the other sees.
Say goodbye to sky rocketing long distance over charges…. in fact, if you wanted to, goodbye phone bill! (What to do with all that extra spending money?) This was a breakthrough in technology because other peer-to-peer networks were not offering a free long distance calling plan.
In order to begin you’ll need only three things:
- A Webcam
- An Internet connection
- Any device with a microphone and speakers or an attached head set
So what makes Skype different from Face Time?
Glad you asked! Skype is more accessible than its newly released competitor: Apple’s Face Time. Unlike Face Time, Skype can be downloaded from the Internet and then be accessed across multiple platforms. This means you can use “Skype from a tablet, a desktop computer, any mobile cellular device, Skype ready TV, and even your iPod touch” (Biersdorfer, 2013). What’s great is that each person does not need to be using the same type of device in order to facilitate communication with each other. So while it may be convenient for one party to Skype from their desktop computer at home, they will still be able to talk to the other party who may be on the go via her iPhone. Lastly, Face Time works only with users who BOTH have Apple Products, meaning if you’re team PC you’re out of luck. This leaves a portion of the population left out because of Face Time’s inaccessibility. Skype has created a way to try to include everyone on a broader channel to ensure that everyone can be connected together.
Did you know you can order a pizza through Skype? Click Here!
What does Skype offer you?
Premium ($4.99* a month)
|Video and Voice Calls to anyone on Skype||Calls to mobiles and landlines worldwide at low rates.|
|Instant Messaging||Send text messages from just a few pennies|
|File Sharing||Group video calls with up to 10 people.|
If you want a more in-depth summary of all the available features on Skype available Click Here!
How does Skype help people ‘Stay Together’?
Skype sells the pitch line “the whole world can talk for free” (Microsoft, 2013). How does this benefit interpersonal relationship? We will break this down by explaining what features help foster interpersonal relationships and then discuss different ways certain relationships have used Skype to stay connected to one another.
Features of Skype such as instant messaging, video and voice chat, voice messaging, and file sharing are all means that enable a person to give a large amount of feedback. How someone uses Skype to connect to another individual all depends on the user. The Uses and Gratifications Theory (Katz) considers what people do with media to satisfy their needs and gratifications. For example, friends and family may use Skype to fulfill their need for companionship. The kind of person who seeks this companionship may video chat and message at the same time, utilizing as many features Skype has to offer. On the flip side a business executive may use Skype to obtain information or facilitate meetings. This person may just use the video conferencing feature and the file sharing ability but not necessarily feel the need to instant message. For more information about business etiquette Click Here!
Friends/Family: Skype is a software that enables people to communicate with each other from wherever they are in the world for free. In the past, distance may have been a factor that could hinder an interpersonal relationship, but with the development of the Internet and Skype it is still possible to engage in a social presence with your friends, family, and colleagues. Video chat is beneficial because it allows nonverbal cues to be seen by both parties involved in the conversation. According to the Social Presence Theory (Short, Williams, Christie) a greater amount of nonverbal cues create a stronger social presence with the sense of actually being with another person. Even though a person may not physically be able to be with their friend, the nonverbal cues seen on the video chat help friends feel the required level of interpersonal involvement needed in the interaction. This visual is necessary in order to continue and maintain a sense of closeness between friends and family. Not only are nonverbal cues critical, but feedback is an essential element as well. The Media Richness Theory demonstrates multiple nonverbal cues, rapid feedback, and a personal focus as being key to communicating via different communication media. People use Skype video chat because they can physically see one another and can now relate to their feelings more effectively. It is important for people to receive feedback from the other Skype user and feel like they are communicating on a personal level while being in different places. This personal focus that Media Richness demonstrates is seen via Skype when dealing with users strong ties between each other. Skype is a great way to connect family members who live across international borders or who are too busy to visit for the holidays. For example, if a member of the family is too old to travel to a family reunion across the country, using Skype is a great way to help the family member feel and stay involved. “Skype has offered older people the opportunity to communicate with family members who were too frail to physically visit the person living in care, thereby reducing the feelings of isolation” (Craig, 2010).
Couples: Skype has recently been a tool for keeping marriages together. With a skyrocketing divorce rate of fifty percent in the United States, the amount of marriage counselors has also been on the rise (Jordan, 2011). Many relationship-counseling services are beginning to hold counseling sessions via Skype. Research has found that it is easier for clients to find specific therapists that specialize in their problems. Since the clients can use Skype and do not have to travel to the physical location, they can contact a therapist that is halfway across the country if necessary. Many counselors have begun to notice an increase in their clients online versus in person. “It was like being in the room with the couple, and I felt they were more comfortable because they were in their own environment” (Jordan, 2011). Skype sessions may also help the couples feel at ease in their surroundings instead of being tense in a counselor’s office. This Skype session is critical because if the clients are abroad or in the office they can still participate in the session regardless of their busy schedules. Now, there is no excuse for missing a marriage counseling session because it can take place in your own living room.
Financially: One outstanding feature of Skype that adds to its accessibility is the price. It does not exclude anyone from being able to use the software. This in turn is beneficial towards maintaining interpersonal relationships because everyone can become involved and downloading the program is quick and easy. Voice chat and text messaging are also very useful when talking to someone abroad because the Skype service is connected over Wifi instead of applying rates from typical service providers via an international data plan. By allowing this feature, Skype has expanded the accessibility of communication between parties. Overall, the price makes Skype an easy tool to maintain, strengthen, or improve interpersonal relationships.
Harmful effects: Unfortunately, there are downfalls of every social networking site and Skype’s deposition can be related to Walther’s Social Information Processing Theory, and more specifically the Hypersonic Model. According to Walther, computer mediated communication can reach the same amount of intimacy as face-to-face communication. This can be problematic because Skype users could put on a ‘face’ and be deceptive. For example, in the Hypersonic Model, senders can selectively present themselves the way that they want to be perceived. This is an issue for both users on Skype who do not have access to video chat and are only instant messaging each other. Over time, this selective feedback will lead us to believe our idealized perceptions of the other person without truly knowing who that person could be face-to-face. These theories also play hand in hand with the Impression Management Model which explains how social media sites help users manage their face online the way that they want to. When using Skype and all other social media sources, it is important to remember how everyone has their own social media identity to look out for.
We think Skype is great, but there is always room for improvement!
Technological: A technological recommendation that Skype could adopt would be a new feature that involves chat rooms. Most Skype users utilize this social networking site to video chat, even though it is capable of much more. Creating a new chat room feature could possibly bring in more users for Skype and members would now be able to video chat with new people in their region or perhaps all over the world. Skype chat rooms would allow the user to message other users simultaneously. Skype is a way to stay connected to relationships that already exist, but if Skype could create a way to start new relationships via Skype chat rooms, they might expand and become even more popular. Chat rooms and the bulletin board system (BBS), share the commonality that they both lack negative stereotypes. Today you could say that chat rooms are the new and improved bulletin board systems because the invention of the Internet. Chat rooms and the BBS are both capable of sharing files, thoughts, and information, but with Skype chat rooms you would be able to send everything more efficiently. The BBS had a few social implications such as introverts who were lacking social skills, but this would no longer be the case with Skype chat rooms due to the availability of people you can message and potentially video chat with. The availability to video chat other people from chat rooms would decrease the lack of social skills stereotype and increase or potentially create new interpersonal relationships though Skype chat rooms.
Social: A social recommendation that Skype could use that would really set them apart from their competition is to incorporate a Skype video-voicemail feature. When Skype’s users are attempting to video chat with another user, and the other party is not at their Skype median, it would be beneficial for someone to be able to leave a video-voicemail. This personal voicemail will allow you to tell the other person face-to-face how much you miss them, without the other user having to be by their Skype median as well. Talk about convenience! Skype’s new video-voicemail will now allow users to alter their behavior on the site to facilitate better interpersonal relationships. Haythornthwaite designed the Media Multiplicity Theory in 2005 which could be applied to a Skype video-voicemail. The theory argues that communication content differs by tie rather than medium. By enabling video-voicemail strong ties could be further strengthened through a use of a new media that no other social networking site has used before. Sending video-voicemails to a family member or loved one agrees with Haythornwaite’s theory that certain media are allocated to weak ties and others such as video-voicemail are reserved for strong ties.
Overall, we give Skype two thumbs up! We believe Skype is worthy of site because of its ability to foster interpersonal relationships through many medians such as instant messaging, file sharing, video chat, and voice chat, just to name a few. By creating various communication medians on the software Skype has fashioned multiple ways people can exchange messages and give a large amount of feedback instantaneously. Furthermore, we believe Skype is beneficial because it forms a social presence between the two parties conversing – imitating the feeling of actually being there. While we acknowledge Skype can be used for harmful deceptive behaviors, we believe the benefits outweigh the risks. In order to give Skype five stars we recommended developing a chat room feature so multiple parties could communicate simultaneously instead of the current dyad instant messaging set up. Additionally, we recommended using the chat room to now only converse with your already existing relationships but use the chat as a tool to find new friends and cultivate more interpersonal relationships. Our last recommendation is to develop a video-voicemail feature. As of right now, when you a call another user and that individual does not answer your call the person is just notified ‘missed call’. To make Skype as rich as possible we thought it would be neat to a have ‘leave a video voicemail’ option.
Aamoth, D. (2011, May 10). A brief history of skype. TIME.
Craig, C. L. (2010). Interpersonal relationships: creativity and communication: making use of everyday technology in care homes. Gerontechnology, 9(2), 277.
Jordan, N. (2011). Relationship repair — Via Remote. Ebony, 66(9), 63.
J.D. Biersdorfer. (2013). Apple’s face time versus skype: Question. New York Times, pp. B.8.
Microsoft. (2013). Skype wherever you are wherever they are- Skype keeps you together. Retrieved from http://www.skype.com/en/