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Virtual Communication and ‘Zoom Fatigue’

by Claire Hayes

During the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses, institutions and practically our whole life has (and continues to be) extremely dependent on one thing – technology. The past year has shown us something we were always very aware of, but none of us ever fully acknowledged. As the pandemic struck every country, we all suddenly realized how dependent we actually are on our technological devices.

Even though our technological advancements have helped us to communicate, keep our jobs, and be able to have somewhat of a social life, more and more of us suffer from a so called ‘Zoom fatigue’.

‘Zoom fatigue’ describes a mental state of (you guessed it) literally being tired or exhausted as the consequence of having too much screen time during videocalls. Due to excessive amounts of close-up eye contact, as well as the fact that you are probably checking the way you look on your screen every 4 seconds (on average), ‘Zoom fatigue’ has become a wide-spread health issue.

The added lack of mobility and general increase of mental health problems caused since the outbreak of the pandemic, all contribute to people feeling exhausted by having to attend one video conference after the other, with different people, all whilst sitting in the same chair, in the same room.

Scientifically speaking, ‘Zoom fatigue’ is caused by multifaceted problems we usually don’t face in ‘real life’. Think about having a conversation with somebody physically present, standing directly opposite you. What do you look at? As humans we have learnt to interpret certain facial gestures, body movements and so on. Now have the same conversation within a virtual space. Notice anything? Instead of seeing the whole person, you see a tiny box, with the person visible from the shoulders upwards. The person’s face is divided into many small boxes (pixels), which might be a bit bigger when suffering from a bad connection. So what do these factors actually do to your ability of ‘reading’ a person? They make you put more importance on the words uttered, and even though you might think this has never been an issue, as we also call people via phone, your brain is still trying to concentrate on reading the person opposite you, the same way you would be able to read them when they are physically present.

So the next time you feel like taking a nap after having a videocall, just remember ‘Zoom fatigue’ is a good enough reason to do so!

Sources used and further Reading:
https://news.stanford.edu/2021/02/23/four-causes-zoom-fatigue-solutions/
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/coronavirus-zoom-fatigue-is-taxing-the-brain-here-is-why-that-happens

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