If you’re feeling exhausted from video chatting with your friends, coworkers, and professors, it isn’t just you: most people are struggling to keep their energy up after talking over Zoom, Skype, and other forms of video calling.
We once thought that video calling would be the wave of the future, and it’s certainly helped life go a little more smoothly in the midst of the coronavirus. In fact, almost one-third of humanity is staying locked in their homes. That’s the same number of people who move in their twenties! As a result of lockdowns occurring across the globe, video conferencing has become more important than ever.
When we video chat with friends, we’re able to actually see them smile in real-time, not just assume that their facial expression matches the tone of their voice. It’s a vital tool in helping us feel less alone as we practice social distancing. It’s even more important for the jobs and classes that have all moved online to help flatten the curve.
So why do we feel more tired and irritable after a good zoom call with friends? Rest assured that you’re not going crazy. This technology fatigue happens for a few different reasons
The term “Zoom fatigue” was coined by BBC in a recent article where they analyzed why video chatting online tends to drain your energy. They note that while video calling is a great tool to stay connected with your family members, it also profers a number of problems that we, as humans, have never had to deal with before.
These problems include your screen freezing, video lagging, audio issues, and more. We’re in a near-constant state of anxiety regarding the status of our technology. The simplest lag could upend a meeting for a few minutes as we struggle to get our technology to cooperate. Not only does this raise our anxiety, but it’s also a frustrating delay to deal with when we want to get through a meeting or have a heart-to-heart with a friend.
BBC found that even a delay of 1.2 seconds can make people on a video call seem less friendly and focused.
In a recent interview with the New York Times, University of Wisconsin at Madison professor of psychology, Paula Niedenthal, surmises the issue:
“Our brains are prediction generators, and when there are delays or the facial expressions are frozen or out of sync, as happens on Zoom and Skype, we perceive it as a prediction error that needs to be fixed,” she explains.
“Whether subconscious or conscious, we’re having to do more work because aspects of our predictions are not being confirmed and that can get exhausting.”
On a purely technological level, this makes a lot of sense. But the problems with video calling go even further.
The dichotomy of video chatting and face-to-face conversations
Even if we had perfect technology that ran video calls without a single error, we might still experience some of the issues associated with Zoom fatigue. Why? We’re social animals.
Video calling is unnatural to a person who needs to pick up on body cues to keep the conversation flowing. From vocal cues to subtle shifts in facial expressions, video chatting makes it harder to do this. In turn, this makes our bodies and minds work harder, even during simple conversations.
Video calling is ideal when we want to avoid the 33% of roads that need repairs throughout the U.S., but for the average human, in-person chats still hold immense value. This is especially important in terms of silence. Any time there is a silence in a video call, the anxiety in the call will skyrocket. Was it an issue with technology? Differentiating natural silences from errors in technology poses another overlooked problem when it comes to video chats.
The BBC study also explains that Zoom calls, in all their helpfulness, serve as a stark reminder of what we’ve recently lost.
“The video call is our reminder of the people we have lost temporarily. It is the distress that every time you see someone online, such as your colleagues, that reminds you we should really be in the workplace together,” explains associate professor at Insead, Gianpiero Petriglieri in the interview with BBC.
This is just another layer of frustration and exhaustion on top of an already stressed population. When you’re already struggling to get groceries and working a steady job and you’re fearing for your health, the last thing you want is a lagging internet connection as you talk to your best friend. It’s no wonder a growing number of people are feeling more tired after video calls.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to relieve some of the stress that we’re feeling. While your internet connection might not be an easy fix, it can be beneficial to go walk out in the grass and get some fresh air. Since we’re spending so much time on the computer, watering your grass with one inch of water is a great way to welcome spring and take a break from the technology that’s stressing us out.
But what do we do when we still want to engage with our friends and family? It isn’t like we can drive to their home.
That’s when it’s time to pick up the phone for a good old fashioned phone call. Limiting the number of video calls we have and supplementing them with alternative forms of communication can help you feel less stressed. If you happen to have a video game that you can play with friends online, this is another fun way to stay connected without draining your energy in a video call.
Quarantine protocols might have made us more stressed, but understanding why we’re fatigued is one of the first ways to stopping our frustrations. Try these tips to reduce Zoom fatigue as we fight back against this virus.