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Keeping Oversea Relationships Close through VoIP and Social Media

July 19, 2012 - 1 Comment

By Kristen Vargas, Guest Columnist

Before the emergence of second generation providers such as Skype, I was always a firm believer that face-to-face contact and physical interaction were essential to sustaining healthy relationships. Born and raised in California with most of my family and friends living in the same general vicinity, I grew accustomed to the comfort and convenience of having them nearby.

However, unpredictable life events followed, and I found myself building a life with someone serving in the U.S. Air Force. A natural consequence of this newfound military life meant that I inevitably was going to be moving from base to base to follow my husband as he served his term. The idea of leaving California to live at my first base in Idaho, although temporarily, was a move I was not altogether excited about and left me feeling a bit apprehensive about living in another state for the first time.

The first couple of months were a difficult adjustment, but using the webcam and VoIP, and Social Media platforms — such as Facebook and Blogspot — made the transition easier. In particular, the webcam has greatly improved the way I am able to communicate with my family back in California – I am able to see their faces “live” and capture nuances in their reactions and surroundings as we converse, which are not possible with a simple telephone call. According to Cisco’s VNI Service Adoption Forecast (VNI-SA) research, globally, voice over IP (VoIP) will be the fastest-growing residential internet service with 560 million users in 2011, increasing to 928 million users in 2016.

I have used Skype and Gmail Video Chats, both of which are free and only require one time installations. In addition, being a fan of photography, I created a private blog with my family as a way to share the daily happenings in my life, including photos of the local culture and landscape.

Currently, my husband and I live overseas in Japan and have recently welcomed our first baby into our lives. One of my main concerns about raising our daughter so far away from home was a diminished relationship between my baby and her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  I was afraid that they were going to miss all the big milestones, and my daughter would grow up without the support of an extended family.

However, with the aid of frequent webcam sessions and MagicJack – “a computer peripheral that, in combination with telephone service from the related YMAX Corporation, provides VoIP to the United States and Canada”, I have found a suitable workaround.  Through the webcam, I have shared early moments of my child crawling, standing, and saying her first words “mama” and “dada”, and my family is ecstatic to be able to watch her grow up with us, albeit in a non-traditional way.

Furthermore, with MagicJack, I make unlimited phone calls back to California without having to incur expensive long distance fees. These devices certainly do not make up for real time face-to-face interaction, but I find it to be the next best thing.

Over the years, because of my husband’s career, I have traveled to Alaska, Idaho, South Korea and now Japan. With each of these moves, I have maintained a close relationship with my family and friends in California, largely through the use of advanced services such as VoIP and Social Media.  While I do hope to move back to California eventually, I am extremely grateful that our current technology allows me to utilize these resources in the meantime.

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  1. As a remote Cisco employee and Marine Corps wife I can attest to the power of social media as a tool to stay connected. In some cases Facebook is the only way I have to communicate with friends and family. While my husband has been away in Iraq or Afghanistan, VoIP and Google chat were invaluable. My Cisco team and I rely on internal social tools to stay connected too. So I completely understand and empathize with your article.