Down in Orange County my friends, who in their Tory Burch flip flops are spoiled by the constant and comfortable year-round sunshine, call the slightly less perfect weather of early summer “June Gloom.” Along with our cold and foggy June Gloom mornings here in the Napa Valley, I’m also experiencing Zoom Gloom.
The shelter in place and social distancing necessitated because of Covid-19 caused a Zoom Boom; meetings and classes of every sort on the online Zoom platform. Just a couple months into it though, Zoom fatigue has set in.
It was fun at first to be able to see people at all and to get up to speed on the technology. It’s a very user-friendly app and as long as everyone doesn’t try to talk or sing at once, a very workable way to get things done. I bought one of those phone holders with the ring lights so that I don’t look quite so much like Golum from the Hobbit when on video. I’ve found in my mid-50s that $24.99 for some flattering lighting is money well-spent.
So at first I prepped for meetings and things as if I were attending in person. I put on some make-up and a decent outfit. I fixed my hair. I sat in front of the camera with the video on and left it on for the entire meeting. But I get antsy. After the first couple weeks on Zoom, I started getting up for coffee. Then I started noticing how dirty my windows were and began turning off the video so that I could do chores during meetings. Then I started feeling guilty for multi-tasking (but my windows looked fabulous).
I’ve been taking a lot of exercise classes on Zoom and again, initially I would put on my cutest yoga clothes and leave the video on, but lately I sometimes wear my pajamas, leave the video off and just lay there. I’m not the only one getting a little too comfortable with meeting from home. In an online yoga class I took the other day, the teacher was out on her porch doing her downward facing dog with her real dog licking himself in the background.
Since Zoom and other online meeting platforms look like they are here to stay, how can we make the meetings and classes more useful, productive, meaningful and even enjoyable?
A BBC article on Zoom fatigue explains that part of the reason Zoom meetings are more draining than in person meetings is that we are more aware we are being watched and also have to focus harder to process visual cues. Silences which are normal in conversation are anxiety producing on Zoom because we wonder if the feed has frozen (again) or if our internet is a problem, reminiscent of the exhausting, “Can you hear me now?” worry we used to have on cell phones.
One thing I’ve started doing to combat the “I’m being watched” issue is to turn my video on for hellos and good byes and turn it off during the meat of the meeting or class. This helps me feel social and lets others know I am really there but doesn’t force me to sit there with a frozen smile on my face for an hour or prevent me from having a snack if I’m starving. Most people know by now that if you’re mute button isn’t on the microphone will pick up every crunch of a carrot.
If it’s a really important meeting or a class that you really want to focus on, that’s the time to make the effort to dress appropriately and hold yourself accountable to being extra present by being on video and prepared with your coffee, water, tissues, pen, paper or any other needs in advance. And if it’s not a really important meeting, do you really need to attend or is it something that could be handled by e-mail or phone rather than video chat?
You’ve probably attended a Happy Hour or other social get together over Zoom and or its equivalent. After a day in front of the computer, seeing friends onscreen may seem more like an obligation and less like fun. Be honest with people and let them know when you’ve reached your limit. Say goodbye and leave the call before you become resentful and edgy. If I were drinking wine I could probably last 30 minutes to an hour but with just a glass of water I can only take 10 to 15 minutes, no matter how much lime juice I squeeze into it. If I hear, “You’re mute button is on,” or “See those three dots at the bottom of your screen,” one more time….