Have you stopped being excited about another Zoom invitation?
It is a bit paradoxical. We are hungry for social contact and the resumption of our group activities, by doing so by ZOOM is tiring. Along with the other kinds of fatigue we are experiencing as a population, we have now added Zoom fatigue.
Zooming has become wildly popular as a way to connect with groups of people socially and as a way to conduct business. Private music lessons, medical appointments – all kind of things are now being done by Zoom.
Along with all of its benefits, Zooming, it turns out, is very taxing for the brain. The brain is highly efficient in its use of energy because the energy supply it draws from is very small. When, as a community, we demand more electricity than the power plant is putting out, parts of the grid shut down. So it is with the brain when we overtax it, which Zoom can do.
What we are used to in small group gatherings is seeing each other’s faces in the same setting. On Zoom, everyone is in a different setting, sometimes wildly different backgrounds. This is the problem for the brain. We are all in different places, so we see different backgrounds along with the faces. When the focus switches back and forth so quickly among so many places, the brain goes, “Where am I?”
Then, quickly we are in somebody else’s home or in their Hawaiian vacation, or in an imaginary background, with the body in front of it moving like a ghost. And then we find our mind’s looking into people’s rooms, intrigued to see what books they have, or knickknacks or artwork. While we might find the intriguing, it does add to the brain fatigue. Nor is it the point of connecting by ZOOM. It is easier for the brain if we all choose plain backgrounds, like a blank wall.
In large group events, like classes and conferences, we don’t have to see everyone’s faces all at once. We are in rows facing the speaker or panel. The back of people’s heads is not distracting like it is seeing closeups of people’s faces. The brain then tries to interpret facial expressions, which is often a waste of energy.
For social events, since we can’t yet meet in person, it is comforting to spend some time in gallery view to see everyone’s faces. Then, in the discussion, it may be good to give preference to switching out of that to reduce stress on the brain, depending upon the length of the session. For large group gatherings with people we are not close to, the gallery view may not be worth the mental energy.
The brain is also taxed by having to deal with audio breakups. It tries to fill in the gaps to figure out what was just said. Such overloading of bandwidth can be reduced by having your device connected to your router with an ethernet cable. Or, if you can’t do that, have your device as close as possible to the Wi-Fi router.
And/or, I suppose, space the ZOOM sessions out so they do feel welcome. They really are helping with the stay-at-home part of this collective Rx we are part of. Even with the opening up process starting, it may take a vaccine before we no longer have to rely of ZOOM.