Updated: Sep 30
As a method of coping with the quarantine, many people turned to Zoom as a way of interacting with their loved ones and trying to stay connected. Zoom meetings became the new classroom, family gathering, block party, girl’s night out, and even wedding venue. My family included would gather 30 people to a meeting and try to love each other through the chaos of accidentally speaking over one another, attempting to use the chat box, not understanding the mute feature or how to find the person’s face you wanted to see at that moment. I quickly realized that ten minutes was all I could handle of these meetings before I felt exhausted.
In speaking to others about this at the beginning of the semester, it became apparent that a many of them were feeling this way too. Due to the way Zoom is set up, students eyes and ears are consistently shuffling between looking at their own faces to make sure they look presentable, looking at their professor’s face to follow along with the lesson, listening to their professor to try and absorb the material, looking at their classmate in the upper right hand corner who moved kind of funny, listening to another student who probably had a good point, but getting distracted by someone who interjected via chat because their mic isn’t working properly. As if that weren’t enough to make your head spin, the teachers are paying attention to all of these aspects while also trying to communicate a carefully planned lesson to their pupils. They also have an added obligation to pay attention to every comment a student makes because they need to be vigilant of those who need help.
Not only have classmates and professors spoken up about how much energy they expend trying to use Zoom, but this new type of tired now has it’s own catchy nickname in the media: Zoom Fatigue. In an article from TED, Sander and Bauman explain that not only are there so many things we pay attention to, we also feel a need to put more effort into our emotions. Without face to face contact, and seeing each other so directly on the screen, we tend to make more eye contact and add more facial and vocal emotions into our communication to make sure we are clearly communicating, which adds to the exhaustion. Additionally, we are missing out on other’s nonverbal cues, so our brains are trying to guess and search for meanings that normally would be easily communicated to and interpreted by us.
Students are also missing out on some of the key interactions that help us to manage the stress that comes from being in class. We no longer have the opportunity to chat unsupervised with our peers before or after class. We can’t easily complain about a difficult assignment or test with others going through the same experience. Remote learning doesn’t foster the environment for classmates to support one another and cheer each other on. These things that used to be a cathartic release are no longer an option, so the emotion and exhaustion continues to build.
So how can we limit the amount of energy we expend during a zoom call? Some of the solutions that are being given are not suitable for the college setting. Articles are saying to limit zoom meetings, opt for a phone meeting instead, make sure you’ve taken care of any needs you may have before you start the call like eating or using the restroom. These are great tips for people who do not need to be on Zoom so consistently, but for college students and professors, they may be on Zoom meetings back to back for hours at a time with regulations about having to show their faces and be active participants.
Even with the situation being different there are some ways to help. The first thing is to turn off your view of your own camera. You can have it set up so that your professor and classmates can see you, but you can’t see yourself. Do this by hovering over the square with your camera view, clicking the blue ellipses, and turning off your self view. It is also recommended that at the end of your meeting, when you have some free time, check in with yourself. How are you feeling? What do you need right now? Tend to your emotional and mental well-being. Some articles suggest yoga and meditation to decompress between meetings. Walkthroughs of these exercises can easily be found on Youtube.
One of the best ways to combat this fatigue is to be aware of what’s causing it. This type of social interaction at this frequency is new to many. Periodically reminding yourself that you don’t need to make perfect eye contact, you don’t need to constantly be ‘on’ as Dudley is quoted describing in the article “’Zoom Fatigue’ is Real. Here’s Why You’re Feeling It, and What You Can Do About It”. By this he means you don’t have to be putting on a professional demeanor every second of the many hours a day you are spending in these meetings. Be mindful of the fact that you are doing it, and then let yourself relax a little bit. When we don’t realize that we are holding ourselves rigid (clenching our jaw, tensing our shoulders, forcing facial expressions) it is only adding to our exhaustion. Purposefully release this tension and refocus on the lesson instead of the environment.
If you are continuing to struggle with Zoom meetings, talk to your professors. Keep in mind that they are probably having similar thoughts and feelings about Zoom. When we talk about it, we keep the conversation open for improvements to the student and faculties mental well-being during this trying time. Most importantly, give yourself time to adjust. Being gentle with yourself about how you are handling this change is going to help you deal with it in the long run. Understand that as we keep using this platform, we are going to find better ways to minimize the stresses of remote learning. (https://ideas.ted.com/zoom-fatigue-is-real-heres-why-video-calls-are-so-draining/)(https://news.northeastern.edu/2020/05/11/zoom-fatigue-is-real-heres-why-youre-feeling-it-and-what-you-can-do-about-it/)