“Can you hear me?”

“I think your screen might be frozen…”

“My internet is cutting o-”

These are the familiar phrases that begin every Zoom conference. Just the sound of them registers mutual frustration with users across the globe.

Thanks to COVID-19, many of us are spending an uncomfortable amount of time alone. As the days and weeks march on, folks are becoming increasingly isolated, understandably seeking ways to assuage their loneliness – and get back to business.

Shelter in place orders are finally beginning to let up, but there’s no foreseeable end to social distancing measures. And while staying apart is for our own good, sometimes it feels like our health and safety are coming at the risk of our sanity.

So, what do we do in these troubling times, when we need human connection more than ever but aren’t allowed to have it? Turn to the internet, of course!

The Modern Savior

Technology has been such a godsend during this time. Office workers are working remotely, and web platforms like Skype and Zoom enable them to communicate with their clients and team members. Video conferencing is an indispensable tool, but it simply can’t replace the real deal.

Beyond the technical flubs, communicating exclusively by Zoom has another, rather unexpected, side effect. If you’ve ever gotten off a Zoom call and found yourself rubbing your stinging eyes, feeling exhausted and drained, you’re not alone. This phenomenon is called Zoom Burnout, and its effects are taking a toll on web users everywhere.

That’s right people. It’s not just you!

What is Zoom Burnout?

As it turns out, video conferencing requires more focus than your average in-person business meeting. Our brains are simultaneously processing words and tones, along with non-verbal cues like eye contact, hand gestures, posture, and other body language indicators. It’s kind of like reading a novel that’s been run through Google translate; we have to peel away layers of interpretation before we get to the heart of the meaning.

Beyond that, Zoom is having a confusing effect on our bodies and brains. We know we’re talking to someone as though they were next to us, but our bodies are aware that there’s no one there. This dissonance registers as strange, making us unable to relax and act naturally. Plus, we are hyper-aware that we’re being watched, both by others and ourselves. It makes us self-conscious, and we become performative like we’re acting in a play. In a sense, we’re always “on.” It’s understandably exhausting.

On top of the mental and physical exhaustion, the emotional strain is undeniable. Mercifully, Zoom allows us to be close to our loved ones without actually getting near them. But in these desperate times, online meetings and chats are simply a desperate measure. They just can’t replace meaningful face-to-face interactions, as hard as they try.

As humans, we crave connection. To look someone in the eye, hold their hand, give them a hug or a pat on the back. Sadly, we’ll have to wait to hold our loved ones again. For now, Zoom will have to do. Just remember to step away from time to time and allow yourself to breathe.

For more support and resources to help you communicate more effectively, reach out today.