Confession: I kind of detest Skype dates.
When a distant friend says let’s Skype I used to be like Yeaahhhh…
I love keeping in touch with long distance friends. Of course I do.
But my goodness do I hate Skype dates.
So I asked myself, what is it about Skype that I dread so much?
I decided to tackle this hurdle once and for all, by acknowledging everything I dislike about Skype dates, and addressing them one by one.
PROBLEM: I don’t want to stare at a screen.
I spend more than enough time on the computer as it is.
SOLUTION: Turn off video, or make it full screen.
Just because I can use a tech tool, doesn’t mean I need to. When my eyes are tired, or I’m feeling extra distract-able, I don’t use video. When I do use video, I make the application full screen and position my hands away from the keyboard for once.
PROBLEM: Skype catch-ups take too long.
I may have a blast, but then I go, great scot, look at the time, we’ve been here nearly four hours!, and get all grumpy for pushing forward my evening routine.
Knowing that this tends to happen, I am less likely to schedule a chat in the first place, and more likely to cancel.
SOLUTION: A 30-minute time limit.
30 minutes is my personal limit for an online chat, compact as a cup of tea. I’d rather chat for 30 minutes once a month than for three hours a couple times a year. I’ll give my undivided attention for that half hour: no tabs up or laundry folding or multitasking of any kind.
THE PROBLEM: Technical blips.
‘I can’t hear you.’
‘I can’t see you.’
‘Can you hear me now?’
‘Weird, it’s working now! I don’t know what it was’.
THE SOLUTION: Address swiftly and move on.
Hang up and call back.
Turn off video.
Consciously reduce technical small talk, the online version of commenting on the weather.
THE PROBLEM: Time Zones.
There’s the inevitable, ‘Can you do this time? How about this time?’ Especially if they’re in the dreadfully inconvenient – gasp – pacific standard time.
THE SOLUTION: I started a personal Calendly.
This appointment-arranging tool is free if you have just one type of calendar. I input my availability, it converts the time zones for me, and eliminates the back and forth.
[On the rare occasion that nothing works, I get some feedback on what would work better; the calendar at least starts the conversation.]
THE PROBLEM: Skype dates coop me up.
I fear that planning my day around a digital date will keep me from living life in the real world.
THE SOLUTION: Two available time slots only.
Monday afternoons:As I start my week, I tend to be too busy to meet people in person anyway.
Tuesday evenings: On ‘Steve’s night out’ I encourage him to meet up with friends and pursue his personal hobbies. I stay home with the puppy. This opens up a more convenient slot for west coasters, and doesn’t impede on family time.
The occasional weekend: If Steve is away, I add extra dates to accommodate more time zones and work schedules.
Other Alternatives to scheduling a time to chat:
Voxer: This Kim Possible-worthy walkie talkie app lets you send voice memos back and forth (Messenger does too, but cuts you off at a minute). My creativity partner Scott and I trade voice memos across inconvenient time zones. I like to to listen and respond while I’m walking, carrying little conversations around in my pocket.
Send a video: Instead of typing out a paragraph, I’ll send a short video on Messenger or Instagram.
Pick up the phone. For long distant friends still in the UK, I’ll give them a ring when I have a moment. Also good for coordinating with local friends about when we’re meeting where. (Can you tell I’m not a huge fan of texting back and forth? :) )
Write a letter. I carry letters and extra stationery in my planner. At lunch or on a pomodoro break I’ll write a letter.
Write a postcard. I keep a box of postcards by my bedside table, and if I feel the urge to text someone, I write a postcard instead. Even if they live around the corner, even if I will see them tomorrow.
In an ideal world, I would return to the corded phone. As old and as cute as possible please.
P.P.S. To stay in touch with you, reader, I hop on Instagram Stories every now and then. ;)