Like many people today, I have become accustomed to using a variety of technologies to stay in touch with my family and friends. Phone calls, emails, and text messages have made staying connected easy. However, my family and I prefer to use FaceTime over these other forms of communicative technologies because as we chat we get to see each other. This potentially allows us to have a more intimate encounter with each others’ whereabouts and daily grinds. I have utilised FaceTime’s services countless times to stay in touch with my parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews in Alberta, Ireland , and the US. It has become our default means of weekly communication.
I recently tried to google how Apple Inc. went about choosing the name “FaceTime.” I found nothing. However, I can imagine that Apple decided upon this name because the purpose of this program was to refashion face-to-face communication and bring people, regardless of their location, together. Through its use, friends, families, groups, and communities will engage in a rich sensory experience where sharing their daily highs and lows can affect the construction and maintenance of a shared identity. Even though this means of communication provides a “virtual” face-to-face element that is needed for heart-to-heart moments, there’s a different level or degree of closeness that is created with FaceTime and other visual computer mediated communication applications such as Skype. As cited by Daly (2004), when face time is limited between family members, their feelings and knowledge of their familial identity can get lost. For this reason, I see how the FaceTime program has been an essential communicative tool enabling me to maintain my role and identity in my family. However, it has also made me keenly aware of how far apart and different we have all become. Our family identities have shifted; I am not the same person to my family, and they are not the same to me. Therefore, in my very rudimentary thoughts, I wonder if FaceTime is enough to maintain identities and sense of belonging that were nurtured in real time.
I grew up with weekly family get togethers and socio-cultural functions. The coming together of people for physical “face-time” solidified our ties as a community and strengthened our social network and connection to all. However, today my family has become splintered by location and work obligations. FaceTime, unlike a phone call or letter, has made the distance apart more bearable, but it also highlighted how out of touch we are becoming. I imagine this is bound to happen. Since its boom at the beginning of this century, computer assisted communication has been touted as a shining star in helping people come together and stay together. I am sure there has been quite a bit of research examining and experiencing how individuals from similar and different social realities connect in virtual instances, such as online dating. In recent years, there has been much talk about the formation and fostering of new identities in online communities. I imagine it would be quite revealing about the fluidity of socially situated discourses of communicatively computer-mediated communities where identities and social realities change over time and space. I, however, wonder how these socially situated discourses change so much that identity affinity to the group is lost. I have now become an outsider of my family’s social reality, and while FaceTime has been the communicative tool that allows me to see my family members, hear their stories, and half-heartedly experience their lives, I feel the importance of a physical connection is needed in order to remain an insider.
Therefore, as I continue to make my weekly family FaceTime calls, I will start to question the sense of belonging that could be lost as the disconnectness of FaceTime reveals the need for real time. This personal experience has sparked my interest to delve into looking at social realities and identity maintenance in computer-mediated communication. However, Dear Readers: Do you think that while computer-mediated communication truly does bridge the physical distance, it fails to truly connect people in ways they can intimately be members of their social spheres?