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Thanks to the current pandemic, it seems like Zoom is everywhere you look these days. If you’re working from home, you’re probably using Zoom to connect with colleagues at the office. If you have kids, you’re probably using Zoom to connect with teachers and educators. If you are quarantining at home for weeks at a time, then you’re probably using Zoom to connect with friends and family members. So it’s perhaps no surprise that, nearly six months into the pandemic, many people are suffering from “Zoom fatigue.”
The scientific basis for Zoom fatigue
And there’s actually a scientific reason for this. According to scientists, all of the little glitches and shortcomings of Zoom – such as blurry images, audio lags in conversations, and the difficulty of getting all the technology to work in your home without the help of IT support – is overtaxing the human brain. You’re literally working harder than ever before to keep up with people.
Just think about something as simple as making eye contact. In the real world, when you’re having a conversation, you make eye contact with people to show them that you are paying attention and interested in what they have to say. And you provide all sorts of video cues – such as nodding your head, moving your hands, or smiling – to augment and support what you are saying. But with video chat functionality like Zoom, you don’t get any of this – even when people speak directly into the webcam, you never really get direct eye contact. And since most people only have their heads showing on a Zoom call, you don’t get to see what they are doing with, say, their hands.
All of this makes it a lot harder to separate the signal from the noise. Just think about it – would you want to watch a three-hour sportscast on your TV if all you got to see was grainy black-and-white images? Would you want to make telephone calls to your friends and family if the call was dropped every few seconds? This helps to explain why video chat never really took off until now.
New innovations in Silicon Valley
To help address all of the shortcomings of video chat, the big companies in Silicon Valley are now working overtime. Facebook, for example, is working on improvements to FaceTime to make it a potential workplace solution for remote workers. And it is creating new hardware – such as upgrades to the Facebook Portal – to make it easier for people to converse with others over video. Just about every big tech company sees the potential here. Microsoft – which had a runaway hit with Skype back in the early 2000’s – is looking to get back in the game. And, of course, Google is now working overtime on making Google Meet a new way to converse online.