Like millions of other college students, I have adjusted to living without my family. They can no longer do my laundry, cook my meals or chastise me for staying up too late. However, learning to be self-sufficient and handling new responsibilities were not the largest parts of adjusting to living without my family; it was the fact that I no longer see or talk to the people who I once interacted with everyday for the majority of my life on a regular basis. In the chaos of college, I would forget to call them and check in for weeks at a time. It was a new task that I had not integrated into my daily or weekly routine. Even when I became better at calling my family, hearing isolated voices over the phone is not the same as seeing the people you love. The solution to my problem seemed glaringly obvious in today’s technological day and age: FaceTime. However, like most things in life, FaceTime can be both a blessing and a curse.
As I began to more regularly FaceTime my family, I realized the dangers of video chatting with family members, especially while living in college. For example, one night I was hanging out in a dorm room with a group of my friends when my sister and my dad FaceTimed me. Given the fact that I was surrounded by people, and when my family usually calls me I am just working in my room, I thought it would be a great opportunity to introduce them to my friends/prove that I actually had friends.
My fatal flaw was in not explicitly telling my friends that my family was on the other end of the video chat. When I flipped the camera around to pan around the room, I didn’t give my friends a chance to see who was on the other end of the call, so they assumed it was a high school friend and acted accordingly. Everything was fine until I got to my roommate who thought it would be funny to flash who she thought was a friend of mine from high school. Unfortunately, it was my dad. Maybe if I had faster reflexes the situation could have been avoided. Sadly, I’m the kind of person who says “ow” five minutes after being hit in the head with a ball. I don’t react to things quickly. By the time I realized what she was doing, it was too late. My family had seen. In horror, I collapsed on the floor and shrieked, “That was my dad!” While my dormmates howled with laughter, I was frozen in fear, curled up on the floor in fetal position. My family and I have not spoken of the incident. In fact, we pretend like it never happened. It’s for the best, I think.
Although many other college students may not be at risk of their roommates flashing their parents, the dangers of video chatting persist in more common forms. Living in college is different than living at home, and depending on your relationship with your family, you may not want them to see certain ~paraphernalia~ in your dorm. My advice is to be aware of your surroundings and always, always inform your friends of who you are talking to if you plan on including them in the conversation. From my singular, but scarring, video chat experience, I have learned to be cautious with FaceTime and reflected on how I want to present my life in college to my family.
Contact Phoebe Quinton with your FaceTime stories at pquinton ‘at’ stanford.edu.