Zoom Fatigue Relief

I’m all about communication. Like it or not, Zoom and other teleconferencing platforms now represent predominate methods of communication. I’ve written before about Zoom fatigue, but only recently, came upon some reasons for the phenomenon. These inspired me to brainstorm ideas for relief.

Seeing Yourself as Others See You

One element in Zoom fatigue is that, in addition to a window showing the face of the person you’re speaking with, you also see a window showing your own face. It takes extra mental effort to pay attention to the other person while periodically checking yourself. That mental effort doesn’t always work. When checking ourselves, we often miss things the other party says. I find it impossible to ignore my own image. One possible solution: hide the window showing your own face.

Look Me in the Eye?

Constantly looking another person in the eye has also been identified as a Zoom fatigue factor. Of course, many of us consider it impolite not to look at a speaker. However, when we’re in the same room, we briefly glance away more often than we might imagine. We might glance down at our feet or at something on the other person’s desk, for example. Few of us consider it impolite for others to glance away like this. Indeed, we might not even notice it.

Yet, it feels more awkward to look away from the only face that’s the only thing you can see on a screen. Neither can see what the other glances at.

When gathered in person, if something distracting happens–the light from a window dims when a cloud passes, or a car backfires, everyone notices. So no one feels slighted if others look toward the window. In fact, the speaker will probably pause and look as well.

This is akin to the reason it’s so much more dangerous to speak on the phone while driving, compared to speaking to a passenger in the car. The passenger will notice when something requires the driver’s attention, and will usually stop speaking or even warn the driver. (BTW, hands-free technology makes no significant difference in this danger. We may not feel distracted, but we’re unaware, for example, that our field of view narrows as our brain allocates resources to multiple tasks.)

So why, when videoconferencing, do we constantly look the other person straight in the eye? I suggest it’s because, on screen, there’s not much else for us to look at, especially as most of us position our faces close to our screens.

In my next videoconference, I plan to move my notebook computer to a table with a background, a portion of a room, visible behind me. Also, I plan to settle back into my chair, rather than leaning in toward the screen. I will explain to the other person that I’m trying to create an impression more like what she would see if we visited in person. I’ll invite her to do likewise, then, ask her to give me feedback at the end of our conference.

Don’t Forget Simpler Solutions

I recently emailed a lady that I’d like to speak with her. She replied how and when she would send the Zoom link “unless I just wanted to speak on the phone.” Zoom was the default mode of communication. Telephoning was an afterthought. As you all know, I recommend speaking face-to-face about complex, emotional, or potentially conflictive matters. For many ordinary conversations, however, the phone works just fine, and gives you a relaxing break.

I hope some of you will try these Zoom relief tactics and let me know how they work.

Russian Anti-Vax Hoaxes

Being all about communication, especially in the context of approaching differences of opinion, means I’m also all about interests. How does it benefit a person who disagrees with me to take the position they do? What do they really want? If I can figure this out, we might find a way to satisfy both that person’s interests and my own.

Thinking in terms of interests serves me well even in situations where I’m not trying to resolve a difference. The best way to deal with social media hoaxes is not to engage with them. I have, however, pondered, Who gains by discouraging Americans from getting COVID-19 vaccinations? The first answer to pop into my head: hostile foreign governments.

Sure enough, Russian operatives have been spreading Anti-Vax hoaxes on social media in the United States. [1] I’ve heard it suggested that the Russians wished to discourage use of vaccines developed in the United States in order to boost European vaccine sales. I believe, however, that this is also part of a well-known Russian practice of stirring up controversy in the United States to cause discord and chaos. This is why they sometimes inflate both sides of a topic.

What about domestic Anti-Vax hoaxers? (By “hoax,” I mean rumors contrary to well-established facts.) What are these people’s interests? Which Americans gain when other Americans fear vaccination? What do they gain? It’s a bit like trying to figure out whodunnit in a murder mystery. Who would benefit from the murder victim’s death?

The only answer I care to offer at present is that there’s more than one answer. There’s more than one kind of Anti-Vax misinformation out there, and there are no doubt multiple motives for spreading it. But I suggest these are questions we should all ask ourselves and ponder.

Meanwhile, I can’t say too many times: Social media is not a reliable source of news.


[1] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/anti-vax-movement-russian-trolls-fueled-anti-vaccination-debate-in-us-by-spreading-misinformation-twitter-study/