According to a brief article that crossed the Cluttered Desk this morning, we as a nation are beginning to suffer “Zoom Fatigue.” Apparently, all this video conferencing is wearing us down and making us yearn for nappy time. I wonder if this work-based exhaustion would be compensable under workers’ compensation. We’re probably all too tired now to try and find out.

According to the brief blurb on LinkedIn, “Stanford University published the first peer-reviewed study on the pandemic-era phenomenon and found that people are constantly looking at each other directly and up close, which is behavior ordinarily reserved for close relationships.” This apparently makes us tired.

I did not realize that looking at people “constantly” could be so exhausting. Although that could explain why “close relationships” can be so draining. 

The experts also apparently allege that “nonverbal cues are harder to send and receive through video chats, and seeing yourself for extended periods of time and having limited mobility can become sources of stress.” I hear that. Non-verbal cues, like kicking an associate under the table to get them to shut up are very difficult to achieve in a virtual room. As for looking at oneself, I do get completely wiped out viewing myself in the mirror. That may be because as I’ve aged there has been so much more to see. And it’s not only looking at yourself that can tire you out. My wife mentions periodically that she is sick of looking at me too, so there is that.

The article ended by telling us that “researchers say their aim is to isolate research areas for social scientists and to suggest design improvements for technologists.” 

Do we really need technologists to solve this issue? Aren’t they the ones that created the platform that gives us the problem? Here are a couple of things those whiz-bang techie people could devise: 

  • Turn your camera off. If you are sick of looking at yourself this would be a simple way to avoid the issue 
  • Use a telephone. We remember those, don’t we? It makes a ringing noise, and when you pick up the handset (for those over 50) or push the green button (for everyone else) a voice comes through the magic box. And you can speak to it. The voice lately is most likely wanting to renew your car’s extended warranty, but it is a voice you don’t have to look at, nonetheless. 
  • Here’s a crazy idea – get out of the house and go visit someone. You can keep your distance. Wear a Class A Hazmat suit. Whatever. But get some personal interaction back into your life. This endless effort at avoiding death appears to be killing us.

So, the saving grace of the pandemic, technology, is now threatening our wellbeing. And just when we finally figured out how to make our audio and video work at the same time. The Zoom boom is fostering doom and gloom, letting fatigue and sadness loom over the room. 

There is a message in all of this. We need human interaction, and apparently, we are no good on our own. Perhaps it is time to put our pants back on, go outside, and live again.

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