Work. Workouts. Happy hours. Birthday parties. In the coronavirus pandemic, videoconferencing was initially a boon--and then kind of a bomb.
"At first, people were so thankful to have this tool to use, 'So I can be productive and work, and stay connected to family, and stay connected to friends,'" says Laura Morse, a licensed professional counselor in Atlanta. "And then, after a while, it became, 'I'm really tired of interacting this way, and I'm realizing I don't have any other choice but to do this.'"
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Morse says it's being called "Zoom gloom" or "Zoom fatigue," based on the name of the videoconferencing platform that has seen a huge rise in popularity since teleworking became the go-to for companies. But the feeling applies to all of the video platforms, be they Microsoft Teams, Skype, or others. It makes people feel disaffected, she says, on a platform that is supposed to keep us connected. There's a lot of visual input with others onscreen; we can also get distracted by seeing ourselves and wondering how others see us or our homes.
"It requires us to have an attention to communication in a way we normally don't," she explains. "You're missing each other's eye contact. You don't get some of the nuances you might get through hand gestures, body positioning. Other people are feeling self-conscious about how they look.
It's taking a lot of energy, and people are feeling drained already."
The physical toll of screen time--eyes hurting, headaches--can be equaled by the mental toll that leads to frustration and irritability. People who spend time on screens for work are also dependent on them socially when self-quarantining, and it can feel like too much when they're finally off the clock. They can feel fatigued with the idea of being "on" all the time, says Morse.
"The gloom part of it is feeling guilty about not wanting to get on that family call...when other people might've been looking forward to connecting in that way. It also comes with the acceptance of, 'This is as good at it's getting. In order for me to talk to my loved one, my family member, celebrate something, I have to use a platform that I'm tired of using, and I really just wish I could be in their company and we can't right now,'" says Morse.
To climb out of the Zoom gloom, she says it's important to schedule down time from the screen time, so there's no burnout. Assume you're going to get fatigued, Morse says, and prepare your day accordingly. Schedule meetings, along with stretch time, meal time, and fresh air time.
"If they had back to back to back meetings, and then their normal habit was to get back on the screen to look at social media, to look at news, maybe take a break," says Morse. "Get outside. Do some exercise. Find a way to get grounded with your environment if you can. Nature has a really great way of keeping us mindful and present, if we allow it to, and a little bit can go a long way."
The virtual barriers keeping us connected and physically safe are also the problem.
"A lot of people have taken for granted the necessity around human interaction," Morse says. "For those people who are going and maybe even social distancing with a couple of friends...it really does something just to lay eyes on someone outside of a barrier."