Living far away from friends and family is hard sometimes, but not nearly as hard as it used to be. I can remember my Grandpa telling me about how when he and my grandma lived in Alaska in the 1940s they used short-wave radios to communicate with family back in Illinois. Each comment was accompanied by several seconds of delay and fuzz. When I was doing fieldwork in Northern Uganda last year, Dr. Chris Dolan – Director of the Refugee Law Project where I was based – told me about how when he was doing dissertation research there in the 1990s he had to send written notes along with people on buses to get a message to Kampala. No texting, just good old word-of-mouth.

Contrasted with these former realities, the revolutionary power of Skype becomes obvious. While sitting in the same chair in my Galway apartment on a random afternoon I can see and listen to my Grandma in Belvidere, friends in Chicago, a former Ugandan colleague now studying at Notre Dame, parents and parents-in-law, etc. I can walk them around my apartment, even a little bit down the street…I can smile, laugh, choose to make eye contact or look away. In short, I can relate…and that means the world. Theoretically, I could even connect these people directly by doing a conference video call. In the click of a button my mom could see and talk to a friend I made a world away in Northern Uganda.

Of course, the joys of Skype are restricted to those who are privileged enough to have  high speed internet and a computer that can run the program. Thus, access is denied to billions. This is the curse and conundrum of the digital divide. I can only hope that with time, the divide will decrease and more and more of us that are separated by oceans will be able to walk each other around our homes, share pieces of ourselves, build relationships to the extant that the virtual world will allow, and begin the process of understanding each other just a bit better.

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