Zoom – we all love to hate it, but the truth is it’s made our interactions easier, for better or worse. Unfortunately, it took a pandemic for most of us to dig this and its opportunities, but fortunately, it made the tough times easier.
Instead of trekking across campus to attend a meeting, lecture, or seminar, we now have access to these resources right at our fingertips. Running late? Zoom in. GrubHub took a little longer than anticipated? Zoom it is – and with a cute background, too.
The transition to Zoom has of course upped the company’s usage. Zoom grew from 10 million daily meeting participants in December 2019 to more than 300 million in April 2020, and reported a third quarter revenue of over $777 million, up 367% over the last year. Zoom has restructured the workplace, education, and social connections. Even concerts have been thrown through virtual platforms this year, providing high quality entertainment from the comfort of your home environment.
However, is this convenience worth our health? More and more research is being published on the phenomena of “Zoom Fatigue” – a feeling we all may recognize after several hours of lecture screen time. Biologically, this is caused because rewards are lessened and costs are elevated due to social disconnections during video conferences.
There is a heightened cognitive effort to interpret communication (most of which is unconscious and nonverbal), which tires us because these cues are used to both gather information about the speaker, and prepare a response, all in less than a second. But on video, these cues are difficult to interpret, because there is no shared environment and much body language is lost. Therefore, we compensate with more cognitive and emotional effort .
This is not helped by our environmental distractions; attention is diverted between the screen, homework, chores and even the viewer’s mirror image on the screen. Admit it, we’ve all spent at least a fraction of our zoom time looking at our own mirrored video instead of focusing on the lecture slides.
It is no educator, employer or friend’s fault that we are limited to virtual meetings – but regardless, it is important to understand the cost of convenience in our daily lives. Ordering blue-light reflective glasses, taking breaks between screen time and finding ways to responsibly meet in person can all benefit our social, mental and emotional health.