Zoomed out?

Easterine Kire

Maybe zoom meets will go down in history as the rage of the year 2020. We don’t have to go far to find out zooming is not for everyone. Call us stubborn or old fashioned, the numbers of people who were resistant to zoom were quite high. 

Apparently thereis even something called zoom fatigue. English Lecturer Sengmei Thaimei has to do several hours of teaching on zoom every day, and she says she is ‘zoom fatigued’ - a term newly coined by neuropsychologists to describe the exhaustion she feels at the end of a day of zoom-teaching. It is not just the way life in 2020 changed without warning, what with home offices, zoom meetings and digital church services and digital meetings. It is the invasion made into our everyday lives by a very unnatural factor. 

Some church members were uncomfortable with the new platform and felt that church had turned into an entertainment platform where the focus was on the production of a show, and inadvertently missing out on connecting to God. ‘All the energy goes into how to ‘produce’ the show to make it presentable/beautiful/technically impeccable’ remarked a church member who wanted to remain anonymous. He hurried to add it was not a criticism of the technical crew, but a comment on the downside of the corona induced life of the churchgoer. The same member added that it was ‘an exposure of my lack of passion.’ Indeed, one can understand the difficulty in finding spiritual intimacy digitally. 

In spite of the minuses, we also do not deny that the ‘zooming’ of our lives makes certain actions possible and clears what could become immense backlog in academia as well as official life. Work gets done because of zoom meetings where discussions are enabled and decisions are taken. 

There is, unfortunately, stress involved in zooming, which is why people feel zoomed out. There are so many factors to consider: Technological correctness, for instance, making sure everything is working, mute microphone, unmute microphone, show video, adjust video etc, couldbecome, for some, actions accompanied by some measure of anxiety.

Getting ready for zoom meetings, preparing the background, preparing ourselves, changing out of home clothes into more presentable clothes – all these are accompanied by a small percentage of stress because we are perhaps coming out of our comfort zone of home clothes and lounging positions on lumpy sofas to sit up straight for a long period of time in front of a screen where our movements will be monitored. Like trying to not look suspicious in a store that has cctv.  

For teachers, a big stress factor could be - filling up space. Online, a few seconds is too long when you compare it to real life where a speaker is able to pass a quarter of a minute in silent mode (writing on the board or giving threatening looks at rambunctious students) in a classroom lecture without any sign of unnaturalness.

Another stress factor would be that if you are a speaker, you almost cannot take a toilet break. There is no hard and fast rule about that, but we would feel so awkward to mention it. Just try it. If you are a speaker and your throat is drying up, you might still not want to risk drinking a glass of water, or tea or coffee and encounter the peril of wanting to go to the washroom.  So, new avenues of connecting, and new hazards to overcome.

In real life we speak without a second thought; we don’t have to remember to unmute ourselves when we want to give a lecture in class or when presenting any form of public speaking. In our new world of communication, we have multiple things to remember. No wonder one feels weighed down by all that.  

So what do we do? I guess we have to accept that zooming has become a part of our lives, for now, at least. And stop actively resisting it. Something that helps is to become less self-conscious, certainly less conscious of the camera. Concentrate on the best way to get your message across. Let that be all that matters. Hopefully, that will take away some pressure. Until times return to normal, learning to cope in ways that work seems to be the only answer. But it could be enough to help us hold out.