By: Derrick Lane

Posted on April 30, 2020

Everybody and their mama is starting to use Zoom, literally. You know the app that allows you to see you and about 100 other people at the same time–yeah, that Zoom. Zoom had over 300,000 downloads of the app in one day in February and more in March.

During this time of the pandemic, jobs have switched to Zoom, graduations and even parties have also switched to the popular video conferencing service. Everybody is using Zoom as a way to see each other and stay connected. It’s a great form of communication, but over the past few weeks, mentions of “Zoom fatigue” have popped up more and more on social media. Plus, Google searches for the same phrase have increased day by day.

Zoom fatigue speaks to feeling so tired and lethargic after being on the computer with your face showing all the time. Zoom is just people on a video screen, but why is Zoom literally tiring us out?

Zoom fatigue can stem from how we process information over video. One expert explains that in a video call the only way to show we’re paying attention is to look at the camera. But, in real life, how often do we look directly at a person in their face and stay there? Not that often. According to the Harvard Business Review, it’s the engagement of a “constant gaze” makes us uncomfortable — and tired.

In-person, we are able to use our peripheral vision to glance out the window or look at others in the room. On a video call, because we are all sitting in different homes, if we turn to look out the window, we worry it might seem like we’re not paying attention. Not to mention, most of us are also staring at a small window of ourselves, making us hyper-aware of every wrinkle, expression, and how it might be interpreted. Without the visual breaks, our brains grow fatigued.

Experts also point to the increased amount of screen time your brain and your eyes are exposed to now that we have to use the computer to stay connected.

For example, one teenager was used to roughly 1 and 1/2 hours of screen time a day. Now, that screen time is up to 6 hours a day. That’s over a 500% jump!

Nava Silton is an associate professor of psychology at Mary Mount Manhattan College. She says all this screen time can be stressful for kids and adults.

“I think it’s really important for adults to recognize how much screen time they’re actually using now and to diversify themselves,” says Silton. “I think that they should…

diversify the interactions a little bit. You know have some phone conversations, have some zoom conversations. Have hours that are really, totally, totally without any screen time at all.”

So how does one overcome “Zoom Fatigue” and protect your mental health?

1. Take breaks — It’s okay to turn off your camera and go to the bathroom. Go behind your camera and stretch or just stop for a second to breathe. Remember, during this time, we are dealing with a lot. This is a pandemic, but at home it can feel like it’s a productivity contest. How much stuff can one person get done while “working from home.” For those of us who know, working from home can be a lot more stressful than being in the office because of the expectations people place on you. So be sure to breathe.

2. Tone down your multi-tasking — I found myself stressed out the other day when I had a Zoom call, then an “impromptu zoom meeting” then a “checking-in” zoom meeting. It can be quite overwhelming! So be present. Be present with what you’re doing so you can focus and get off the call to do something else instead of trying to do it all at the same time. Give yourself a little credit, you’re doing good!

3. Just be yourself — when we are on camera socially, it seems as though we feel the need to have a certain “look” just like on social media. So if we see ourselves not smiling, not getting the right light, it causes a bit of frustration within us. So instead of putting on a fake look, it’s ok not to smile and just be yourself. If you’re not feeling it that day, that’s okay! If you just want to chill and your boss is okay with that, then do it! The key is to be yourself no matter what camera is pointing at you.


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