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The psychological consequences of using Zoom

You can tell the days I have meetings. I have make up on. I don’t bother changing out of my home clothes, but usually don a nearby blazer. I am always barefoot. 


I have worked from home for over a decade now and when before I used to cough to hide the sound of my dog’s barking when on a phone call, COVID has meant that what was once rare is now the new normal. 



Zoom has changed everything. And that’s because it does such a good job. Back in the old days the nationally spread Traveltalk team used Skype to catch up and turned off the video. During lockdown we were just happy to see anybody so cameras were turned on. 


But it’s not always smooth sailing. 


According to Stanford communications professor Jeremy Bailenson, Zoom is doing some weird things to your brain, CNN Business reported. 




In an in real life (IRL) meeting you’re likely sitting around a conference table, staring at your tablet or notebook, or gazing at who is speaking. But on Zoom you are suddenly confronted with a whole heap of watching eyes, which Bailenson likens to staring at someone you’re forced to sit next to on a subway.



I’m a fidgeter. But when on Zoom (or any other video conferencing) I attempt to stay in the frame. But the impact of this can be limiting argues Bailenson. Physical activity can spur mental activity he said. "People who are walking, even when it is indoors, come up with more creative ideas than people who are sitting." 



Turn off that little box with your face in it, says Bailenson, otherwise you can get stuck constantly evaluating yourself. Do I look bored? Am I frowning? The whole exercise can make you feel more stressed, and science says the effects are worse on women. Great. 



The barrier of the screen means that we feel the need to overcompensate when we send and receive nonverbal cues. For instance we might nod longer than we normally will or stare into the camera rather than faces to feign eye contact. According to Bailenson we even talk 15% louder. 


It doesn’t look like Zoom is going anywhere fast. So if our stress levels rise or vocal chords give out, we’ll just have to wait to communicate via hologram.


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Published: 15 March 2021

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