Do You Fume on Zoom?

Admit it, your Zoom trajectory probably went something like this:

At first, you were intrigued by Zoom, and ready to vroom. And then, boom! The more you Zoomed, the more you fumed, until eventually, the mere mention of Zoom triggered gloom and doom. And now, you’d just as soon trade Zoom for a tomb.

Cute rhymes aside, after a year of Zoom meetings the popular pandemic-fueled platform feels like a necessary evil for many of us. A study on Zoom by Stanford University researchers was published online Feb. 23 in the Technology, Mind and Behavior Journal. They discovered four reasons video calls are more exhausting than in-person communication:


Too much eye contact:

We sit too close to our computers, and the images of the people we’re talking to are waaaay too large. As lead researcher Jeremy Bailenson said, if we get that close to someone in real life, “our brains interpret it as an intense situation that is either going to lead to mating or to conflict.” The solution, according to Bill Murphy Jr., who wrote about the study in his daily newsletter, Understandably, on March 2, is fairly simple — reduce the size of the Zoom windows and use an external keyboard to give yourself more of a buffer between you and everybody else.


Seeing yourself all the time is weird:

It grows tiresome quickly, especially for the self-conscious. Murphy’s solution: Turn off the self-view option.


Total lack of movement:

Zoom calls necessarily mean you can’t move, even if it’s just repositioning yourself in your chair, without attracting attention to yourself. “Get more distance between your face and the camera,” Murphy wrote. “And establish ground rules that allow people to turn off their cameras sometimes.”


Much higher cognitive load:

Video chats require you to give exaggerated cues —such as vigorous head nods or a demonstrative thumbs-up — to communicate nonverbally, and it can be cognitively exhausting. Murphy’s solution: Take “audio only” breaks during which you turn off your camera, turn your back to the camera or close your eyes.

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