Is Zoom Fatigue Real?
It's been over a year of conference calls, working from home, online class, and virtual happy hours and weddings. The COVID-19 pandemic has opened the door for a booming company: Zoom.
What is Zoom?
A year ago, in March 2020, if you had uttered the word, "zoom" people thought you were talking about an object or person moving at a breakneck speed. Now, the word takes on a whole new meaning.
Web conferencing, Zoom, has opened the doors for virtual events and meetings during the pandemic. The platform has allowed students to attend classes virtually anywhere, offers a platform for business meetings, reduces the need for travel, and creates a space for virtual weddings, funerals, happy hours, and more.
The company's popularity shot up during the first three months of the pandemic, with sales jumping 169%. In the same quarter, the company made a profit of $27 million, more than it had made in total in the prior fiscal year.
What is "Zoom Fatigue"?
If you have ever used Zoom, you might have experienced what people call "Zoom Fatigue." This term refers to the effect of feeling exhausted after you hang up each call. You might feel that you have to make more of an effort to appear interested, are missing non-verbal cues, and the feeling of staring at your screen all day leaves your eyes exhausted.
In an in-person setting, we rely on many nonverbal cues that help you understand the emotions and reactions of your coworkers and peers. Cues such as eye contact, subtle shifts in their body, sighs, glances out the window or checking your phone. Without these actions, we find ourselves constantly worrying about what others are doing during our conference call.
Video chats are also psychologically more complex than face-to-face conversations. We have to pay attention in a world of distractions. If you are conferencing from home, you might be distracted by a spouse, child, or pet. In a college setting, you may have to navigate Zooming simultaneously as a roommate or find a quiet place to give a presentation.
Another challenge of Zoom calls lies in the silence. In a real-life conversation, silence creates a natural rhythm or shift in conversation. The silence allows us to adjust and find comfort in gathering our thoughts. However, on Zoom, the silence creates anxiety that can make you uncomfortable. A 2014 study in Germany found that delays on phones or conferencing platforms shaped people's views negatively. Even delays of 1.2 seconds made people perceive the other person as less friendly or focused.
Our physical presence on camera creates another struggle: the feeling of being watched. Zoom calls are different from in-person meetings in that you are often forced to stare at yourself. You might find yourself fidgeting with your hair and clothes, adjusting your background, or feeling self-conscious. This is because video conferences make you feel like everyone is watching you as if you are on stage. The feeling of being watched can create social pressure and an obligation to "perform." Having to act performative on top of participating in meetings and paying attention can make every meeting significantly more stressful.
Zoom calls aren't the only things exhausting us. They serve as a reminder of the things that we are missing: in-person meetings and interactions that we crave after a year of isolation. Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, we are all exhausted by the disruption of the pandemic in our lives.
How Do I Alleviate My "Zoom Fatigue"?
Don't worry; there are ways to alleviate your Zoom fatigue. Try limiting your video calls to only those that are necessary. In a work setting, try sending shared documents with clear notes as opposed to a video call. Use your meetings as a way to catch up before starting with the agenda—check in on other's mental health and wellbeing.
Schedule Zoom breaks into your day! Allow yourself a few minutes to stretch, exercise, go for a walk, or spend time with your pet or family members in between meetings. These short breaks will rejuvenate you and allow you to return to work with more energy than before. They also allow you to step away from your work for a bit and unwind.
Lastly, establish a daily routine. Create structure and a divide between your work and private life. Allow yourself time to work hard during the day and decompress at night. Make your daytime different from your evenings, as well as differentiating between your weekdays and weekends.
While Zooms have taken a toll on students' and workers' mental health and exhaustion everywhere, it is encouraging to think of a future without COVID-19. There will be a day when our technology no longer fatigues our minds.
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Author: Payton Hoffman