Trust me, I miss you (I just hate Zoom)

I have taken part in more ‘pub’ quizzes than I can count in the past few weeks. I think I’ve actually taken part in more virtual quizzes than I have in real life. From family tournaments to nationwide events, the humble pub quiz has found its new home – Zoom.

I had never heard of Zoom before the UK lockdown started. My first experience was with a group of friends that we usually see every Monday. We’re a pretty loud bunch and, with a few of us new to the platform, chaos ensued. As the weeks have worn on, I’ve found myself using Zoom – and every other video calling platform for that matter- less and less frequently.

At first, I had a very simple excuse: It’s been a long work day, I’m feeling stressed and I just need some time to wind down. However, as I found myself taking time away from work, I found myself using increasingly more vague excuses; to the point that when a group zoom invite came through I’d just kind of… ignore it. Right now, my zoom call schedule is basically two quizzes a week and a catch up with some of my church friends.

Please don’t get me wrong, I see all the benefits that video calls have to offer. Right now, we’re experiencing the greatest disconnect that our generation has ever faced. I deeply value the ability to see my friends and family’s faces on a weekly basis. It improves my mood and outlook on life every time I see a new face pop up on the screen. However, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m less connected than ever.

I’m not alone in this. Zoom Anxiety seems to be creeping across the nation – and it’s not just experienced by introverts.

I’m a social person, I feed off of the energy of people around me (yes I know that I sound like a Doctor Who monster). I just love hearing about people’s day and filling them in on the highs and lows of lockdown in the Gathford household. The thing is that a video call is just not the same.

There’s two reasons that I’m not spending much time on video conferencing platforms at the moment:

  1. I feel completely exhausted after the meeting ends
  2. I feel more disconnected than if it were a normal phone call

I have theories for why I, and others, may be feeling this way. The first is well documented, with numerous articles springing up across the web on the subject; the second is my own personal experience so has less scientific backing.

Why do I feel so tired after a video call?

Video calls, especially those with quite a few participants, require an awful lot of attention. There’s a whole load going on and a lot of stimuli to exhaust your eyes and mind. Even the quiet bits of a Zoom conversation are plagued with worry. Seriously, try praying as a group on a Zoom call – the time of quiet reflection quickly turns into panic that someone’s computer has frozen. Needless to say, it kind of ruins the mood.

So why do they require attention?

The thing is that video calling requires more attention than a normal conversation. Often there is a feeling that we’re under pressure to ‘perform’. No, I don’t mean like Jon’s infamous Eponine impression, I mean that we subconsciously put ourselves under pressure to appear alert, attentive, and interested in what’s going on in the chat. Take, for example, a call I had with a church group a few weeks ago. I was quite happily enjoying listening to the conversation, the way I would in real life – not always looking fully attentive but listening as I leaned back from my mobile to find a comfier position. Instantly I was texted by every girl in the group. Each text read along the lines of ‘Are you okay, you look a bit down?’. Kudos to the girls for checking, but it’s just my resting face.

There’s also a lot going on. Lots of overlapping voices and an array of faces to to take in in one small space. Our eyes get tired from staring at a screen, and our minds get tired processing this information. Ever heard the expression that most of our language comes from the body? We’re working overtime in a video call to process the body language of others through a screen.

Why do I feel more disconnected?

This is something that I’ve experienced and I don’t know if other people have had the same feelings. I just feel lonely after a call ends. Each time I see the faces of the people I miss, I’m reminded that something terrible is happening in the world and what we’re experiencing at the moment has been incredibly difficult for us all.

I think that the best way to explain it is that I feel as though I’m talking to someone trough a glass window. I’m connected with them but not connecting with them. In a way it makes me miss people more.

And now of the good part…

Yes, I find video calling exhausting. But I also know that I wouldn’t cope without it. I miss my friends, I miss my family, and the four walls of our flat can feel rather claustrophobic during the day. I love seeing people and if Zoom is the way I have to do it for now – then that’s the way it’s got to be. The safety of my friends and family outweighs my poxy issues with a video calling platform.

Video calling isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but it is the best way to feel connected in this extremely difficult time. Plus, let’s be honest, video calling isn’t just for me. It’s for my mum, who I don’t get to see often anyway. It’s for my sister, a key worker living alone throughout this. It’s for my step-brother and his girlfriend, on the frontline of the NHS saving lives. It’s for Jon’s family and friends who we’ve spent more virtual time with since this started than in the past few months. We need to be connected, in any way we can, and video calling means we can see people all at once when we wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

I hate zoom, but I miss my friends and family – and they’re more important.

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