In the last few weeks, whether we wanted to or not, we’ve all had to familiarise ourselves with video calling apps like Zoom, FaceTime and Skype. Yes, for work, but also to serve the all-important function of helping us keep in contact with our loved ones while we’ve been forced to social distance. Perhaps it’s one of the more useful by products of a weeks long lockdown? That and, of course, now being able to bake delicious banana bread from scratch.
But, however you’ve been using these video calling apps, they’ve become an essential part of our daily lives. And, despite Zoom’s frequent freezing, or issues with audio on Microsoft Teams, or being told you’re ‘reconnecting’ on a WhatsApp video call, our time during lockdown would have been much more miserable without them.
Here’s how some women have used video calling apps to their advantage in the last few weeks…
The new granny
On 27 January, Debbie A became a granny for the first time. And what followed were many happy weeks spending as much time as possible with her beautiful granddaughter. Now, however, things are a little different. But Debbie chats to her daughter and granddaughter every day on a WhatsApp video call. And at least she gets to hear the sweet gargles and see how the baby is growing.
“I talk to her and try to keep her attention – she’s 12 weeks old now. Because I want her to recognise my voice, if she can’t recognise my face, when all this is over.” Obviously, nothing beats being able to hold your new grand baby, but chatting over WhatsApp is a workable second prize.
But, there’s a plus side. Because new additions to the family tend to bring people together even if they’re physically miles apart.
“My mom, who’s 83 and lives in the UK, has about as much access to my granddaughter as me! But she’s thrilled,” says Debbie A.
Now, a weekly tradition has formed where four generations of women gather on their video calling apps to chat every weekend. “My eldest daughter calls on a WhatsApp video call, and connects us to my other daughter and the baby, and my mom all those miles away.” It’s the first time great-granny has mastered this technology. But, Debbie says this is a tradition that will stick. And, for the foreseeable future, she’ll have to keep count of the baby’s fat rolls via video call.
The normally sociable friend
During an interview, Megan from Living Corona Positive told me how she’s been using apps like FaceTime during lockdown. Especially since, after testing positive for COVID-19, her isolation has been going on for weeks longer than the rest of us. “I’m missing my friends like crazy, but these video calls really help,” says Megan. And, she’s found some conversations over a video calling app to be better than she expected .
She says, “When chatting to friends, I find we’re even more focused and present than we’d be if we were sitting face-to-face. And, definitely if it were a regular call.” Normally, when we call to catch up, it’s in the car on the way to work, while we’re making dinner or putting the laundry away. We’re used to doing many things at once. But, thanks to lockdown, we now have time on our hands. And, our conversations are becoming more meaningful because of it.
The cross-continental siblings
Debbie B and her brother have also found that lockdown, and the subsequent need for video calling apps, has improved their catch-ups. Debbie says, “Before lockdown, weeks would go past without my brother and I speaking, but now we chat every day.” Debbie’s brother and his family live in Australia and, in normal times, both families are understandably very busy. Now, with things slowing down a bit, there’s more time for those hour-long Skype chats.
“We also have a shared concern over our parents, who live here in SA. Usually, I see them every week, but now that’s not possible. It’s nice to speak to my brother about it, because we’re both worried about them. But it seems to ease the stress a little if it’s shared.” These days, Debbie B and her brother talk about everything from the struggles of working during lockdown, to which books they’ve read and what their kids have been up to. Debbie’s even had a video tour of her brother’s new home.
The overseas daughter
Davina emigrated to the UK last year. For months she’s been chatting to her family and friends in SA on video calling apps like Skype and WhatsApp. She and her husband say it feels less like they’ve been ‘removed’ from their families during lockdown, because they’re used to communicating like this. “Group calls have amped up a lot, though,” says Davina. “Now we’ll do a Zoom call – something I’d never used before – with my parents. And my sister and her kids will join. And we often call friends back home.” Davina also says it’s great to sit down to have more focused conversations where you’re totally present – because, really, there’s nothing else you need to be doing.
“What’s funny is that now we sometimes run out of things to say. Because nothing’s really happening in our lives,” says Davina. “The ‘updates’ are pretty quick!” But, that hasn’t stopped Davina and her husband making many video calls a week.
So, it’s clear that video calling apps have become an integral part of our lives. And, whether or not you were used to using them before lockdown, you’re certainly used to using them now. We know nothing really substitutes the joy of really being with those we care about, able to hold their hands or even cheers wine glasses. But this technology offers a fairly decent solution.
As Charles Dickens says in Nicholas Nickleby, “The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again.” Perhaps, in a few weeks or months, our human connections will be all the sweeter.
By Features Editor Stephanie van der Plank