I started using video calling with my family when I travel.  Skype and FaceTime are great options for this.  I have noticed a big difference in impact, between video calls and voice calls.  I feel better after I see my family.    I don’t feel so absent, even though I’m not there with them.

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I notice people and objects more if I see them a lot.  I also notice things that are there, more than things that aren’t there.  Sometimes it takes a while for me to notice if something is missing.

Once in a while, I drive through my neighborhood, and I notice an empty lot.  There is no house there anymore.  Where did the house go?  Was it ever there at all? How long has that house not been there?  I notice homes that are being built, but I don’t open lots.

I notice things that are there, more than things that aren’t there.  Maybe everyone does.  There is an expression “the squeaky wheel gets the oil”.  We are wired to pay attention to things that are there, and things that call for our attention.  I guess that is why babies cry.  If they didn’t cry, maybe we wouldn’t pay enough attention to them.

We have an expression about absence, too- “if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound”?

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Our senses have been developed to notice things that are present, not things that are absent.  We have senses of sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing.  We see, smell, and taste things that are there.  We don’t easily notice the absence of taste, or silence, for example.

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This applies to people as well as to things.  I notice people who are present, more than people who are absent.  I think that is why schoolchildren have assigned seats.  That makes it easier for the teachers to notice if someone isn’t there.

I spoke with my daughter about this when she was choosing a college.  I suggested that it would be better for her if she chose a place where it would be obvious whether she was there or not.  In other words, small class size was important.  No one notices if a few students are absent if the class size is 200.  But in a class of 10, every absence is noticed.  Be seen, be noticed.

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I once had a colleague who took a promotion that involved moving overseas.  She moved, and worked from a home office.  She came back in 2 years, and noted that she felt “out of sight, out of mind”.  She was doing important work overseas, but she wasn’t being seen, so she felt that her impact was decreased.

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Video calling used to seem like a technology only possible for the Jetsons.  (If you don’t know who the Jetsons are, then you’re at least 20 years younger than I am).

Now the technology is free, and easy to use.

Thank you, FaceTime and Skype.

Hal