There was a time when going off to college or war meant being cut off from family for weeks and months on end. With computers, smart phones and social media, that is no longer the case and Skype makes it easy.
Lily Zajc of Setauket first started Skyping when her middle son went off to SUNY New Paltz three years ago. She found it made the transition of him leaving easy when she “was able to see his face and know that he was doing well.”
When her three children were in Europe this past summer, they found an Internet café in France and Skyped from there. “It was a relief and joy to see them in their hostel, and at least for those few moments erased my worries," Zajc said.
It’s not only parents who want to keep track of those kids. Zajc said, “my friends with aging parents who want them to see their grandchildren Skype.”
Having a loved one in the service can be stressful, but being able to communicate with them eases that a bit. Blake Ramsey from East Setauket was stationed in Iraq when he first started using Skype to see and talk with his mom in 2007. Now that he lives in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S.V.I., he uses Skype about one to three times a week to keep in touch.
When family lives overseas, it could be years before you see them. Eleanor Skopelitis, who works for in Setauket, misses her sister Marie, who lives in Scotland.
Four months ago, while on the phone with Eleanor, Marie was telling her how she Skypes with her daughter in Connecticut and her son, who lives in New Zealand. Since it had been more than six years since Marie and Eleanor had seen each other, Marie convinced Eleanor to give Skype a try.
“I was talking with her on the phone and told her I set it up” said Eleanor. They went on the computer and found each other. “It felt great seeing her and my brother-in-law,” Eleanor said of her experience. “We had a great laugh over it.”
Eleanor is now trying to convince her daughter, who lives in Plattsburgh, to set up Skype so she can see her grandchildren Quinn, 3, and Cassidy, 2.
Keeping in touch with parents and grandparents is a popular use of Skype. Brianna Reynaud, senior PR manager of Skype, says that only 37 percent of Skype use is for business or business-related purposes. In 2010, video calls accounted for approximately 42 percent of Skype-to-Skype minutes.
“We hear about parents who keep in touch with their kids who are away at college or studying abroad," Reynaud said. "With Skype video, they can meet their children’s roommates or friends and see what their dorm room looks like. Skype is also useful for grandparents who aren’t able to travel as often.”
Vincent Fitapelli of Stony Brook regularly Skypes his grandparents who live in Florida. “They only get up to New York about once a year now, so when there are big events, we Skype them in and leave it on so they feel like they aren’t missing out, and they can be with us," Fitapelli said.
When Emily Morabito left Stony Brook in 2008, she first started Skyping so her tutor from home could help her while she was away at college. “I eventually used it for my family and friends," she said.
When Emily’s boyfriend was away at college, they would use Skype every day. She recalls a funny call she had with him one night. “I would finish all of my homework, and I wouldn't get on to Skype until after midnight," she recalled. "We would talk and both lay in bed. One night we both fell asleep with Skype on, and woke up in the morning still on Skype. It was pretty cute actually.”
Although she finds it easy to use the platform, her mom finds it a little difficult.
“My sister sets it up for her," she said. There are a few times her mother “got rid of the camera and then wondered where she went. She must have clicked the video button while we were talking. Then her little box disappears and she gets all flustered.”
It may take parents and grandparents a bit longer to master the technology but that doesn’t stop them. “They would keep calling us and then talk, but we couldn’t hear them,” Fitapelli recalled of his grandparents' first few tries at Skype. “They just couldn’t get their camera to work right. Then they’d get it working, but they’d be too close to the camera. It was really funny at first.”
Whether a novice or expert, Skype is a great way for Three Villagers to stay close to those they love.