Wednesday, January 23, 2013

No “Hug” button on Skype

I recently came back from a 3.5 weeks visit in the US. We spent about half the time in New York, and the other half in California - a coast-to-coast visit. It was quite a journey that blended sightseeing, entertainment,  restaurants, shopping, meeting friends, and most importantly: family reunion. With all the wonders of modern communication, it seems that "good old" air travel is not obsolete just yet. 

Nothing like holding your child in your arms
New York in December is quite an “experience”.  We got to mingle with the crowds and survive the Christmas and New Year “shopping frenzy”.  We saw a couple of Broadway theater shows, climbed to the top of the Empire State Building, visited the 9-11 Memorial, watched a few movies, strolled through a snow-covered central park, frequented several museums , and ate in a variety of restaurants. The only downside was the weather. For someone who grew up in a Mediterranean country and got spoiled by the near-perfect weather in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York in the winter is a chilling experience.

California is a whole different ball game. As soon as we landed in San Francisco airport, we appreciated the sunshine, blue sky and the warm(er) temperatures. What can I say, all the cultural appeal of New York quickly melts away with a few Californian sun rays. We met old friends, strolled through the streets of San Francisco, snuck in a day of skiing, enjoyed a mud-bath and hot springs in Napa valley, and of course frequented all of our favorite stores – T.J.Maxx, Costco, Fry’s Electronics, Target, just to name a few.

Did I miss all of that over the past couple of years of living in Israel? Not really. I mean it’s fun, don’t get me wrong. But after living in the US for 20yrs, I am happy to travel elsewhere. I’d much rather visit China, India, Europe, Australia and New Zeeland just to name a few alternative destinations.

So why on earth would I spend hard-earned dollars to go visit a place I have already been to? It’s all because Skype doesn't have a “hug” button.

Two of our children live in the US - one in New York and the other in San Francisco. You can say that we've got the US “covered” coast to coast. We use modern communication to stay in touch. We have an Internet phone, which makes our phone calls “local” rather than long distance. We use email, chat and of course Skype.

Oh Skype… How did people manage before? Who would have thought that video conferencing will become so approachable? Does anyone remember the days of “PictureTel”? Those large, complex and expensive video conferencing systems that required special phone lines and half of the time didn’t quite work?
Compare that with a simple “click” on Skype from your laptop, smartphone or tablet that immediately connects you with a loved one across the world. Just like magic, their face appears; you hear their voice and almost feel their presence. Almost.
There is no “hug” button on Skype. You cannot reach out through the screen and feel the other person. There is no way to put your arms around them and feel their heart beating against yours. And when it comes to your own children, nothing less suffices.

So we continue to use email, chat, iMessage, Whatsapp, Facetime, Skype and phone calls. But every once in a while we simple have to board a plane, spend infinite hours in crammed seats, eat lousy food - all that so we can hug our children.

I am waiting for the “hug” button on Skype. With all the smart people working on apps, cloud, virtualization and what not, I am hoping it will become available soon. .. I can hardly wait.


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