Mention such a thing as a webcam, or webcam chat, in a crowd of various ages, and you are guaranteed to get mixed responses. It's no wonder. Webcams and webcam chat have worked up quite a reputation in this world, and there's no doubt that in many ways they are a case of technology being more advanced than its users. We hear terrible stories of people spying on each other and using webcams in immoral and even illegal ways. But that's no reason to turn and run from a thing as potentially powerful as this new way of communication.
What is a webcam? It is a very simple concept. Basically, a webcam is a camera that records live action, much like a video camera - a streamlined, new age video camera, that is. The webcam attaches to your computer and can record images and audio, on a time-lapse or real-time basis, and then upload its footage onto the internet so that anyone who knows where it is can watch it. And with webcam chat, you can hold a conversation with another webcam user, where both sides can hear and see the other person at the same time.
There are many practical uses for the webcam and webcam chat. The homeowner who is away on vacation might find a webcam invaluable for keeping an eye on his empty house. And, of course, nowhere is the webcam more popular than in the world of online dating, where webcam chat is a nearly ideal way to communicate with the person you're getting to know, without the committment or danger of meeting in person. It is sort of like that first phone call, except with webcam chat you get the chance to see if he is picking his nose while he talks, or if she has a nervous habit of flipping her hair.
Long distance relationships can benefit from webcams and webcam chat, too, in ways that couldn't be more obvious. Getting to see the person you miss on the screen, actually speaking to you, is a very pleasant use of technology. Ironically, the use of more equipment, higher technology and more complicated systems can potentially bring us closer together in the case of webcam chat.
The possibilities are really endless. Perhaps some day webcam chat can be used to diagnose problems over the internet. Imagine setting up a webcam chat with your mechanic and then recording yourself trying to start your car, so he could see the car and hear that terrifying noise for himself over the webcam, and you wouldn't be stuck trying to imitate the sound into the phone! Perhaps someday webcam chat can be used to diagnose certain illnesses without leaving your house. You could simply put your child in front of the webcam and have a nurse tell you, yes, those red dots are definitely chicken pox.
As for me, when it comes to webcams and webcam chat in particular, I think it will take me awhile to wean myself away from my good old telephone. Call me old-fashioned, but sometimes I'm nervous enough when I call someone on the telephone, and I certainly wouldn't want to worry about how I looked at the same time, as in the case with webcam chat. Then again - when I think about it, for those great hair days when everything is fitting just right, the webcam chat could have definite possibilities.