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t is an interesting question &mdash what one tries to do, in writing a letter &mdash partly of course to give back a reflection of the other person.” So wrote tireless correspondent Virginia Woolf to her friend Gerald Brenan, on October 4, 1929. Couples don’t have to contend with their different standards of cleanliness when they only meet in cyberspace; they don’t have to fight over who’s going to take out the garbage or who forgot to return the DVD.
Now all it takes to capture an accurate reflection of someone far away is a Skype account. And while they might not have a warm body to snuggle up to at night, they know they are still there for each other. Skype may not be taking our communication into the future so much as revisiting the past &mdash the Romantic era, when snail mail arrived several times a day. In another century, John Donne wrote these lines to his wife: Skype encourages us to sustain and possibly deepen our relationships across vast distances.
Skype was created in 2003 by the same Danish and Swedish entrepreneurs and Estonian software developers who created Kazaa (a file-sharing program similar to Napster). I found it difficult to return to the tedious and unnerving everyday. The emotional muck of “relationship” conversations could be avoided, and the tedium of “How was your day, sweetie?
Since then, Skype has taken the communications world by storm: as of April 2008, it had more than 309 million registered accounts. I was neither alone, with the compensations of perfect solitude, nor with my warm-blooded partner. ” could be replaced by an X here, an O there, and some good, healthy competition. In one You Tube interview, a couple talks about how they sleep with their laptops in bed, each under the gaze of their respective cameras.
The image of my girlfriend’s face and the familiar environment &mdash her piles of poetry, her thick Lithuanian dictionary, a white tunic she bought in Rajasthan &mdash conjure up so many other sensory associations (her smell, her touch) that sometimes I feel we’re in the same room. The Skyper is forced to look at his partner, undistracted (unless he’s busy surfing the Net), and to listen closely to her words; it could be argued that this form of long-distance connection is more intense than face-to-face conversation. [it] makes you talk more deliberately, and not respond so quickly to what the other person is saying.” Skype encourages us to be present, to get to know each other, and become close through conversation. She: It’s not like we’re really saying anything important right now.