Why Zoom Fatigue Is A Real Concern

By Ben Hamill - June 01 2020
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  Why Zoom Fatigue Is A Real Concern

It’s a strange new world out there at the moment. And come to think of it, it’s an even stranger new world ‘in here’. And while our reasons for feeling this way may vary, much of what we’re experiencing right now can be ascribed to a term that’s not yet found a home in popular psychology text books, but soon will, and probably even before the current year is out: Zoom fatigue.

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It’s not quite what you’d expect it to be, either. It’s got a lot less to do with “is this thing even on?”, than what it does with a drain caused by our own switches being constantly flipped to ‘ON’. And even though it’s called ‘Zoom fatigue’, with our new condition deriving its name from the popular video conferencing software, it’s a fatigue caused by every video conferencing software brand across the board. Think Skype, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams: Zoom fatigue applies to ‘em all.

Confronted By ‘Self’

But what exactly causes Zoom fatigue? Several elements are in play, actually, if work-from-home psychology is to be believed. And surprisingly enough, the number one culprit isn’t at all what one may think. And yet, makes perfect sense. It’s something that’s been draining us for as long as memory serves, after all, and it’s called self-awareness. Only now, there’s a bonus element at play, as instead of our being vaguely aware of the (to our minds, at least) social unacceptability of our ticks and conversational habits, we’re now being confronted with our inadequate physical selves Hollywood style and in stereo.

It may be true that the majority of us aren’t actors (perhaps it would have been more bearable had this been the case!), but that doesn’t mean we’re unfamiliar with cameras, and especially video cameras. As such, our natural response to ‘action!’ is exactly that: live and uninterrupted on-camera action.

We’re Performing For The Camera

And it only gets worse from this realisation on out. Not only are we constantly aware of a live image of ‘self’, but we’re also; and perhaps even more ‘keenly’ so; aware of a multitude of other faces staring back right at us.

Zoom, along with most other online meet and videoconferencing applications, typically displays on every user’s screen, every other user taking part in the conversation. Which means that everyone else is staring right back at us, and in a style referred to as Hollywood Squares style, named as such after the long-running television show. And its tiring to the point of some users reporting the need to lie down in between online meetings.

But what how do we solve our latest virtual conundrum? Spending time away from our screens in-between chats is a good place to start, says Janine Hubbard, a psychologist based in St. John. Whoever thought talking on the phone would at any point in the future become a communicative instrument of choice? And yet, it just has, because at least telephonically, we can still ‘do it all’ in our pyjamas. And we’re the only ones who’d know.

Like it’s supposed to be.

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