Oh The Distance Is Not Doable

As soon as my daughter realized she could see her own face in the preview window when we Facetime’d, it was all over. I get maybe a half an answer to, “What did you do at school today?” before she just starts mugging for herself and making animal sounds. Eventually I stopped fighting it and realized if I wanted quality time with my kid while I was on the road, THIS was going to be it.

One of the hardest things about traveling for conventions is leaving my family behind. Skype and Facetime make it somewhat easier, but it’s still a drag. I have some friends famous/popular enough to get invited out to conventions as guests and since most if not all of their costs are covered, they often get to bring their families. I think when Kiddo is a bit older, I’d like to take her to a summer convention. Let her see the weirdness of her daddy’s job first hand. Maybe she can run my credit cards for me or grab the right sized t-shirts. Or maybe she can stand in line for 6 hours to get me a $45 hotdog while I stand in a different line for 6 hours to get a $45 coffee. Perhaps I’ll just put up a sign that says, “Cute kid will draw you a picture for $10.” It would probably be the most profitable con I ever did.

Harry Potter fans: Check out my wife’s new Wizard Duel necklace! She’s also got a Kissing Pacman necklace and Game Of Thrones house necklaces for House Targaryen, House Stark and House Lannister.

COMMENTERS: Has Skype/Facetime/Video chat/etc changed your life at all? Do you have any particularly clever uses for it? Sometimes I get my cartoonists friends on Skype and just leave it running while we’re both working. It’s almost like having a co-worker. Weird.

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  1. Work: I had teams of volunteers around the world using G+ and hangouts to have weekly meetings and ongoing text chats. Free, all platforms, and much more work gets done.

    Home: I (essentially) browbeat my sister into buying a Nexus S a few years ago. She was NOT happy about it. "I (will) never use the internet on my phone!" is something I've heard from many people. Then she Skyped me from the hospital to show me her son shortly after his birth. Later I asked her if she regretted the expensive phone. "I'm never going back," she said. Now we video chat as much as we phone, and it's great.

  2. When my ex and I first moved to Taiwan, we gave our families a virtual tour of our apartment, plus we Skyped every week with them. Made the feeling of being homesick more bearable.

  3. My husband goes away for work pretty often and if he can get a hotel with good reception we will skype. It's great for bedtime with our toddler son, since he can't grasp daddy being gone longer than an afternoon quite yet. It reassures him that daddy's still here and loves him.

  4. Skype actually has helped me meet my best friend. Little backstory: I am a TTRPG nerd, who could not find a group in my local area. Mostly time issues due to the job I had at that time, though a couple were just personality clashes.

    I went online, and ended up finding people with the same problem finding a group, all of us for different reasons, so we ended up forming an online group using Vent. We've lost people, gained new ones, but four of us have stayed the "core" of our little 7-person team. Of course, this being the internet, we were careful with information, but eventually.. We just found ourselves so relaxed it seemed natural to stop guarding so much.

    One big thing, though, was our locations. We're fairly scattered across the East coast and midwest, but two of us live only a few hours away from each other we found out. Worried about just meeting in person, we opted to Skype first. Now? We see each other frequently, including going to a (normally) monthly LARP. If one of us isn't feeling well, we Skype and talk about it. Hell, we started using Skype to secretly plan during certain games, especially when characters weren't trusting of everyone yet.

    She's one of my best friends in the world.. And one 4-hour long Skype session led to us both saying "Let's have coffee". I know it might seem dumb, or minor, but.. I don't think we would of made that choice without that conversation. And, really, I don't think her and I would be where we are in our lives now without each other to lean on.

    • I know what you mean. I've made a ton of friends over the internet. Turns out one of the best friends I've ever had, met online, and I know for certain both of us would be in reeeaally dark places if not for each other. I took a train to Canada to spend a week with her last year. Now if money can be worked out she and her boyfriend are staying at my place this summer.

      The internet isn't as scary a place as we try to make it. 🙂

  5. I'm amazed at how quickly long-distance communication stuff has changed. I was on the kid side of the equation off and on growing up. My parents started working with missionaries when I was seven, which meant traveling to where the missionaries are. That first trip was a month long. I remember having scheduled weekly phone calls with them that involved waiting 2 or 3 seconds between question/response because there was such a long delay.

  6. Weird. My second and third paragraphs got eaten! Anyway…

    It's now completely normal to text or talk with my parents when there are in the middle of nowhere on the other side of the world. Incredibly remote places where the people don't have heat or running water, but the cell phones work. It's amazing. I can't imagine how different their early trips would have been with today's technology.

    When I moved away from home ten years ago I couldn't go home for Christmas. So we did a jury-rigged web cam plus phone thing so we could open present together. Bad resolution, only updated every 10 or 15 seconds, but it worked! Now I video chat with my parents fairly regularly. It's so nice to be able to show my mom what I'm working on (I'm a knitter), or to be able to show them the awesome framing job the store did on the new art I bought.

    • We're on the other side of the country from my family so actually getting together's expensive; but for birthdays and Christmas (as well as other random times, but especially when presents are involved), we do Skype video chats with them. Both sides love to get to share the kids opening their presents with Grandpa.

  7. We don't have any family near us. We Skype/Google Hangout/Facetime with my family all the time and with the hubby's family occasionally. I'm 100% convinced that it's the only reason why my son knows and is comfortable with his relatives. When he was younger and we went to my mom's house, he kept looking at her funny as if he was confused as to why she wasn't in the computer.

    At work we just got Lync. It lets us do face-calls too, which is wonderful since half of my team (including myself) is remote to our manager. It's a great way to get to know our co-workers better.

  8. When my now wife and I first met, I was five months away from a year studying over in the states. We'd not planned to get into anything serious, we were each thinking the other would just be a bit of casual fun but about three months in I realised I was falling in love with her. Once I got over to the states, I quickly bought a webcam and a microphone and hooked them up to my computer. From then on we talked every day over MSN messenger – this was in the days when that was about as hightech as it got! Despite the time difference, and her starting a full time job, we'd chat for at least two or three hours throughout the day. Being apart was really hard, but being able to at least talk and see each other made it bearable. Looking back at it now, I think part of why our relationship is so strong is because we spent most of our first year together just talking; she became one of my best friends as opposed to just the casual fling she and I were supposed to be to each other.

  9. My daughter's currently studying in Japan, so Skype's been a godsend for keeping in touch with her. The time difference can be a pain in the butt occasionally, though. In addition, back in 2004 my employer graciously informed me that my job was moving to another city, and if i wanted to keep it… For numerous reasons I ended up getting an apartment, and my wife and I skype every night. It helps.

  10. With my family all over the place, Skype and Google Hangouts are the best. Last week I got to see my 2000 miles away nephew open the birthday gift I sent him. My son and I sang him happy birthday and then the two boys spent ten minutes making faces at each other 🙂

  11. A friend who lives halfway across the country and I use Skype for playing Magic against each other. It works pretty well unless one of us is running a weenie or token deck. Then it's hard to keep everything in-frame.

  12. When my kids video chat with my brother-in-law's kids, it just turns into 4 kids yelling to be heard over each other. Plus the making funny faces. We just don't bother anymore. My wife is on her first cross-country business trip for her new job this week, and we've talked on the phone, we text / hangout IM, but video chat is so useless, it never even occurred to us.

  13. Facetime is a "The Future is Now" sort of thing, but it's still super awkward. It's just like going up to someone, facing them and placing both of your hands on their shoulders. Then have a conversation with them and NEVER LOOK AWAY then entire time. Just stay like that…hands on shoulders…even when you walk around the room.

    Yes it's the future…the awkward, awkward future.

    • I tend to use facetime and skype like they're a window into the room the person is in. I dont feel obligated to maintain constant eye contact. I look around, look at my work, let my eyes wander, etc. I think it adds to the idea that they're really there with me.

  14. My father set up a Skype account some years back and my brother bought him a web cam for his computer. Unfortunately something about the audio/video syncing proved to be incompatible with his iMac whatever system he was using. So when I tried to Skype him from overseas, we couldn't get a clear picture or the audio was garbled. Well we solved that by us going video only on Skype and me calling him via my MagiJack. Worked like a charm.

  15. I was going to feel bad for Willis, then I remembered all the things that he has done to his characters and I feel neutral.

    Then again, if it weren't for these things I might be attached to him in the first place…


    On to non-Willis related matters, I've been in a long distance relationship for three years now, and I have to say that Skype is a godsend. We get to talk every night, and fall asleep together. That's more than I could say for any of my short-lived relationships I had beforehand. Now if only we could afford to close the gap….

  16. Joel, I don't know how you've done it with only a few simple lines, but your facial expression and posture in panel 2 are SO evocative of a parent being excited to talk to a child. Good work!

    • Thank you for the kind compliment. I dont really think about those things when drawing. I just think about what is happening in the panel and from what angle the camera is viewing and I just draw it. I guess that's how I look when I'm too far away and I get a call from my kiddo.

  17. Skype is the best. I first used it with my start-up for our weekly meetings to update each other on out progress, but I was the only one with a camera on my computer. I now use it to talk to my parents on their iPads when they go on business trips and drop by their parents' houses, to show them the wonders of the future!

    • I'm really anxious for home telepresence. Like some sort of rudimentary holo-projector that makes it seem like your long distance family and friends are sitting at the dinner table with you.

  18. Skype was a godsend for my wife and me. Waiting for my visa to be approved and being on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean; we were able to see each other face to face every day

  19. Our kids were two and six when my husband joined the military. We're together again now, but it was a little hard on him and the kids back while he was in Basic and could only talk to them on the phone. So what we ended up doing was getting us all Minecraft accounts; I did us all up skins to look as much like us as possible, and then, with the kids each on their own computer and with a cheap microphone, we'd play Minecraft together on a private server he was running from his barracks room off a laptop in a cupboard, with a simultaneous group Skype voice chat. It was great, and really let the kids interact with Dad in a way that felt very close to being real, even though we were still in BC and he was in Quebec, a long, long ways away.

  20. This makes me wonder how much seeing yourself on camera can speed up a child's developing awareness of her in relation to the world – what Julian Jaynes calls consciousness.

    Also, awww.

    • One of my friends has 3 year old twins and he said whenever one of them sees himself in the facetime preview window, he just assumed it's his brother (the person he most associates with that particular face).

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