I have three good friends from college who I never see and barely speak to. We do group texts during football season when our college team is playing or when someone has a baby, but besides that, we glean information on each other’s lives from our Facebook and Instagram feeds.
We’d all love to get together more, but we live in different states, each of us has at least two kids, and we’re all just plain busy with day-to-day life. The few times we’ve reunited (think: three times over the last thirteen years), we pick up right where we left off like no time has passed – boy, would it be fun to do that more often.
Enter Marco Polo. In a world saturated with social media apps, here’s one more – but for us, it’s working wonders. Marco Polo is a video messaging app. I think of it as a simplified SnapChat. There are a few filters, a handful of funny voice changers, and the ability to add a text overlay to your video, but beyond that, it’s all about recording a video message that your friends or family can pick up and watch when it’s convenient for them. Also, it doesn’t disappear. You’ll see your ongoing thread of videos at the bottom of the app.
The first time we used it was nothing short of a virtual college reunion. Their laughter, stories, and personalities brought me back to our days in the dorm and in the apartments we shared. I didn’t expect to belly laugh while watching their videos, but I did. And when I wasn’t laughing out loud, I was staring at my phone’s screen with an unwavering grin.
Marco Polo fills just the right gap for us. I do use FaceTime almost daily to call my parents and in-laws. I text a bunch of people every day, too. I scroll Facebook and Instagram more than I care to admit, and, when I remember, I check SnapChat. There are a lot of ways I stay connected, and I don’t think Marco Polo is ideal for all of my relationships – nothing can truly replace a back and forth conversation in real time, but for my long lost friends, it’s as close to a reunion as we can get.
We don’t need to find the time, money, or childcare to travel to see each other, and we don’t have to coordinate a mutually convenient time to use the app (although you can see if someone is on the app at the same time as you).
I pride myself on being efficient, so I love that I can both watch and record Marco Polo videos hands-free while doing other things. This is my new entertainment while folding laundry, washing dishes, and completing other mundane tasks around the house. My friends record all over the place, too: pumping at work, working out on the elliptical, making dinner, and whatever other pockets of time they have.
The videos are surprisingly liberating to watch and record. We’re informal and unconcerned with camera angles, good lighting, hair, or makeup. We’ve been friends for almost 20 years — one unflattering Marco Polo video isn’t going to change our opinion on each other.
Sometimes our kids make cameos, too, which is always fun and validating to see each other’s often hectic lives in progress. Plus, it’s helping our children get to know each other. They enjoy watching each other on video and sending messages back and forth. Whenever we do get to meet up in person again, our kids will be ready to leave us in the dust and go off to play together.
This is a place to share news and stories that I don’t want to publish to all of my “followers” on broader social media platforms. It’s a chance to see my friends’ faces and expressions, hear their voices and catch up on the little things happening in our lives that we wouldn’t get around to sharing in our once-in-a-blue-moon telephone conversations. It’s these more frequent, more real-life check-ins that are renewing our relationships, moving us away from being “old college friends” and back to, simply, friends.