Why Zoom Conversations Are Tiring & What to Do About It

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You've probably spent more time communicating through a screen during the pandemic than you have your whole life. The work-from-home and distance learning options are wonderful in some ways, but the ongoing screen-based communication is taking its toll. We're seeing the impacts of Zoom fatigue on students and professionals.  

Here are just some reasons why Zoom can be exhausting and what solutions you can employ for managing Zoom fatigue.

Close faces are threatening

Consider situations where your eyes are close to another person. These situations often involve physical intimacy or a threat. In a Zoom call, the gallery view, where each person is positioned very close together, can cause discomfort or spike stress hormones as it mimics these tense situations. These intense emotions can cause fatigue over time as our body goes through intimacy or prolonged defensive overload.

Solution: Place Zoom on speaker mode and shrink the screen down. This feature will help you focus on one person, and they won’t appear so large or close to you. Also, try sitting farther away from your screen.

Self-judging social cues

As social beings, we've evolved to pick up on social cues that tell us how others perceive us. This biologically driven skill helps us alter our behaviour to be more accepted into the group for our protection. You experience this when you focus on one conversation despite background noise or other conversations nearby. This ability to focus on social cues and stimuli that directly impact you is called the cocktail party effect.

The problem with Zoom is that we can see, and therefore critique, ourselves, leading to self-judgement and appearance dissatisfaction. We're now in a vacuum of social feedback and observation with ourselves. We engage in a battle to pay attention to others or pay attention to ourselves.

Solution: To overcome this draining feedback loop of self-judgement and observation, try using the settings on many zoom calls to turn your own video off for yourself. This way, you won't be distracted by the image of yourself, but others can still see and engage with you. Alternatively, if permitted in large meetings or classes, turn your camera off entirely for little breaks.

The illusion of a large audience

Public speaking is something that many of us struggle with. When presenting to a large classroom via Zoom, that fear is genuine, even if you’re seated in your cozy home office, miles away from everyone. However, Zoom can also make a small group feel like a large-scale public speaking event. If you have a weekly work meeting with a team of 10 managers, you’re suddenly faced with ten rectangles all staring back at you while you speak. This situation can mimic a speaker-audience situation and create more stress than a casual weekly team meeting around the board room table.

Solution: A benefit to Zoom is turning the speaker view option on. While I mentioned the adverse effects of seeing yourself on Zoom, there can be positives. Speaker view allows you to pin one person to the screen to mimic a one-on-one conversation. Or you can pretend you’re just practicing in the mirror at home and pin yourself.

Cognitive overload

Zoom meetings and video chats make it hard to rely on our natural ability to read body language and other non-verbal communication cues. Our brain has to work twice as hard to read the emotions and reactions of others through a screen with limited non-verbal cues.

Solution: If your entire day is full of Zoom meetings, you won't be very productive after the second call because of this cognitive overload. Put limits on how many Zoom calls you'll take in a day or what days you'll schedule calls. Don't overbook yourself.

Reduced physical movement

There's a lot less movement involved when communicating via Zoom. When we engage in in-person conversation, we move around. We use more hand gestures and may even be out walking around or simply standing.

Solution: Get a standing desk so you can take part in Zoom calls while standing. Make sure you get up and go for a walk or do some light yoga between calls. Periodically turn off your camera and take a movement break during long calls.

With the current surge in Omicron cases, we must find ways to distance ourselves while prioritizing our physical and mental health. If you're finding yourself dreading work-from-home or online school because you can't handle any more Zoom calls, use these solutions to help. If technology is starting to take over your life and you're wondering how to cope, pick up your copy of The Tech Solution today.

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