Zoomed in

A short while ago, I read several articles on the psychological effect Zoom is having on those of us who are using it extensively from our home offices. A good example of the genre is this article from The Guardian, which points to fatigue and other effects of looking at our own image on screen for long periods of time.

I have on average two meetings a day in my working week, and would estimate each meeting lasts between 1.5 to 2 hours. So, as many as 4 hours a day spent looking at myself in a Zoom gallery.

I first used Zoom in 2016 as part of the Nordic collaboration «The Artist as (Film School) Teacher», so it was not an entirely new thing to me when campuses and workplaces were shut down on March 12th, 2020. I did find, however, like so many others that the endless days of Zoom were exhausting but assumed that had more to do with the general weight of trying to keep both myself, my family, and the school going under the Covid-19 pandemic.

Reading that Guardian article, however, led me to try an experiment: this past week I’ve used «hide self view» in all my Zoom meetings, in an effort to see if it’s made a difference.

The experience has been…odd.

In small meetings — one on one, or in a group with 2-4 others — it has made a difference. Not seeing myself makes it easier to concentrate on the others in the meeting, to look at the camera in an effort to give the illusion of eye contact, and has made me less self-conscious.

In larger meetings, however, the effect has been more alienating. All of a sudden I feel more like I am outside the group looking in, and have lost my place in the community. The threshold for participating in the group has become higher, and the temptation to do something else greater.

Very odd.