It’s OK Not to Zoom, Zoom, Zoom All the Time
by Kristen Merrifield
Flashback to January 2020 — ahh, what a time of ignorant bliss. None of us were aware of the beast that was about to be unleashed in just a few more weeks. Oh, I’m not talking about COVID, but yes, that was indeed, and still is, a beast. I’m talking about Zoom.
Yes, yes, I know. Zoom has been around for years. And video chat has been around for decades. It’s nothing new. However, I could count on my fingers and toes how many video chats I participated in via Facetime each year. Now, not even a centipede has enough appendages for me to count how many Zoom calls now encompass my days and weeks.
Pre-COVID, scheduling a Zoom meeting felt unique, cool and state of the art. I remember creating a new color category in my Outlook calendar to designate Zoom meetings (serene navy blue). And then, as COVID raged on, and we continued to find our way in this new virtual environment, Zoom became a verb, and we Zoom, Zoom, Zoomed every day, all day. In the beginning, this made us feel more connected. As we all struggled with feelings of isolation and disconnectedness from the colleagues we once saw daily in the hallways, in the lunchroom and at events. Seeing someone’s face talking back at you was so much better, right?
Then, a new term entered our vocabulary: Zoom Fatigue. We heard ourselves saying, “My eyeballs are done. I literally can’t Zoom one more time today.” But our eyeballs weren’t the only things that were fatigued. Dare I say it? We had become too connected — or perhaps a better way to say it is, too available.
With no meetings to attend in person, no commutes and nowhere to be — we were now super available. Our calendars started to fill up and, with no need for travel time or lunch meeting time in between, the meetings were back to back to back to back. There have been many times I haven’t even been able to fit in a bio break or stop to eat lunch during a day of Zooming. But we sure were productive on those days, weren’t we? (Insert sarcasm if you didn’t catch my drift.)
Recently, I picked up my cell phone and dialed a number — just to be sure telephones still worked. To my surprise, they did! I was shocked to discover that not only did the telephone work, but it still was a solid form of communication — even in a 2022 COVID-Zoom era.
I actually love Zoom. I think it has opened a new door to communication that we hadn’t fully explored pre COVID. It has made everyone more accessible and connected, especially those who don’t live in the same area code. It has allowed us to experience arts and culture we might never have seen. It has brightened our day by seeing our nieces, grandparents and friends. But, like with every “good thing,” there is the opportunity to have “too much.”
Zoom fatigue is real. It’s real because we have flipped a switch and agreed that, in this new normal we find ourselves in, video calls are the only way to stay truly connected with each other. We do everything via Zoom, and by the end of the day we find ourselves mentally and physically tapped out. We stare intently into a blue-light computer screen for hours and hours. Imagine if all those Zoom meetings were in-person meetings. Would you feel more, less, or equally as tired?
So, I say — bring back the phone call! It’s OK to talk to someone and hear their voice and not see their face. It’s not rude to ask to meet via phone and not Zoom. Let’s normalize the phone call. We somehow did business and were a good friend before Zoom. Let’s normalize 30 minutes in between meetings — even if we don’t have to get in our car and travel. Make room for yourself to think, reset and rest.
Zoom is a wonderful tool, and we can use it thoughtfully and strategically. A good mix of Zoom, phone calls and in-person meetings are ideal. I want my calendar to look like a spring bloom of colors — yellow phone calls, green in-person meetings, navy Zoom calls and light blue in-office meetings. Ahhh, I can just see it now — it’s so beautiful.