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By mgieva • September 7, 2010

The Mirror Culture: Can video chat change relationships?

If you have made at least one video call on Skype, you have experienced a mix of vanity and guilt. Though you are speaking with somebody else, your eyes remain glued on your own image in the left-hand corner of the screen. You fix your hair, straighten your posture and put a sweet, static smile on your face. Preoccupied with your own looks, you forget about the bigger picture—the face of your conversation partner.

Most people would agree that video chat has made us more vain. The fact that there is a video webcam that makes you pretty confirms this idea. But has video chat really changed our conversation dynamics?

I would argue so. In video chat, one's identity is being reconstructed in real-time. You can model your reactions, focus on your own conversation efforts and express your ideas in an unusual for you way. It is as if you are holding a mirror in your left hand and communicating ideas with your right hand. Are you getting distracted?

I know I am. That is why I rarely turn on the webcam when talking to my parents on Skype. I am afraid that I will lose my spontaneity when I do so--calculating each smile or wink. This screen culture transforms me. Is it transforming you?

Photo credit: notsogoodphotography