• Zoom Fatigue-A New Phenomena:
    Mark Campanelli
    Supervisor Student Support Services
     
    At this point in our lives virtual learning and conferencing has almost come to define the age of a new reality of communication during the age of COVID-19. After speaking with family, friends and colleagues about working virtually I began to notice a common thread-these video calls are making them tired-even exhausted, more so than a day of in person classes or all day in person meetings.
     
    After doing some research I learned that this phenomena now has a name-Zoom fatigue. It's not really Zoom-caused fatigue, it's video/online meeting fatigue however Zoom gets the label because Zoom is the go- to meeting platform most people are using. You have probably, by now, lost count of how many virtual conferences, meetings and video chats you've conducted or participated in since the pandemic began. If you feel like you're totally exhausted after a day/week of these meetings you are not alone.
     
    Why then do we find video calls so draining?
     
    According to Liz Fosslien  and Molly West Duffy, "it's because video calls force us to focus more intently on conversations in order to absorb information. Think of it this way: when you are sitting in a conference room, you can rely on whispered side exchanges to catch up if you get distracted or answer quick clarifying questions. During a video call, however, it's impossible to do this in less you use a private chat feature or awkwardly try to find a moment to mute and ask a colleague to repeat themselves. The problem isn't helped by the fact that video calls make it easier than ever to lose focus. We've all done it: decided that, why yes, we absolutely can listen intently, check our email, text a friend, and post a smiley face within the same 30 seconds. Except, of course, we don't end up doing much listening at all when were distracted." 
     
    According to Laura Dudley a Behavior Analyst at Northeastern University, being on so many videoconferences is exhausting because many of the nonverbal clues that we typically rely upon during in-person conversations-eye contact, subtle shifts that indicate someone is about to speak are gone. According to Ms. Dudley, missing these nonverbal cues can be taxing our brainpower. "It can be draining to feel like you have to be 'on' for the entire meeting according to Ms. Dudley. Also relying upon the video calls for work may make it difficult to enjoy using them to relax and catch up with family and friends after work. Ms. Dudley goes on to say, "we used to take breaks from people by spending time on our gadgets, now we take breaks from our gadgets by seeking out real, live human connection."
     
    Brenda Wiederhold writes in an editorial contained in the Journal- Cyber psychology, Behavior and Social Networking, that the reason we feel tired, anxious or worried after we overuse videoconferencing is that," there is a slight lag. No matter how good your Internet is, it seems we have this millisecond-maybe a few milliseconds delay. The communication isn't in real time, even though it seems like it is. Our brains subconsciously pick up on the fact that things aren't quite right. The fact that things are out of sync-and were accustomed to them being in sync when it's face-to-face communication, our brains try to look for ways to overcome that lack of synchrony. After a few calls a day it starts to become exhausting, "the result is that video calls require more brainpower because it is a different form of communication than we are used to. Non-verbal cues and body language make up a huge portion of communication, video calls make it significantly more difficult to pick up on these cues-it takes more energy!
     
    From my experience, simply trying to join a virtual meeting requires more energy-more so than simply walking down the hall to a conference room. Now we have to get the dog/cat off our lap, clean ourselves up or the background area, sit up straight and begin the process of joining the virtual meeting. At some point, assuming there aren't any technical difficulties along the way the meeting begins.
     
    My research into this phenomena shows there are many people who find themselves exhausted after so many video calls and virtual meetings. It looks like virtual meetings, teaching and conferences are here to stay, if you are still awake and reading this, here are some healthy ways to manage Zoom fatigue:
     
       * Don't multitask, if you are on a virtual call stay on that call, don't look at your cell phone or your email. This is also beneficial if somebody asks you a question and you haven't been paying attention.
     
    *Take breaks, get fresh air, make sure you're working ergonomically as there may be physical side effects associated with Zoom fatigue such as: eyestrain,  aches and pains in your lower back, neck or spine which may be attributed to the way you're sitting while on camera.
     
    *Give your eyes an opportunity to relax, for every 20 minutes you stare at your computer screen, stare at something else 20 feet away for a total of 20 seconds.
     
    *Reduce on-screen stimuli, research shows that when you're on video you tend to spend time gazing at your own face, so hide yourself from view. We also focus on the background of the others present, sometimes I strain to see what books they have on the shelves behind them.
     
    *If possible, schedule time in between virtual meetings, if you need time alone take it.
     
    *According to Laura Dudley, "daily routines are important, your day should be different from your evening and your weekday should be different from your weekend."