Zoom video conferencing, the tool of the moment helping us stay connected online. It’s a bit of a Marmite situation – you either love it or you kind of despise it. And I can see both sides; from a personal perspective, it has been incredibly valuable – helping us stay in touch with friends and family, whether down the road or across the world. From a business perspective, it has also allowed many of us to take our work online, helping us continue to earn a living during these tough times. From schooling, to fitness, coaching, to courses, Zoom is officially paving the way for our current online interactions. It’s the fastest-growing video conferencing platform in the world – going from 10 million daily users in December 2019 to a whopping 200 million in late March 2020.
The flip side: is it really necessary to use Zoom for every single conversation we have? The outfit, the hair, the state of your living room – it all factors into the equation (particularly if you’re still in your pyjamas). Regular phone calls still count you know. It was a bit of a novelty at the beginning – we suddenly found ourselves under lockdown, isolated – many of us cut off from family and friends, and so this video calling thing started off pretty fun (bearing in mind that some countries don’t have access to WhatsApp calls, FaceTime or Skype, so this is actually a novelty for some of us). We had our catch ups with friends across the world, we enjoyed our on-screen family gatherings, we took our workouts online, we dropped in on a few Zoom birthday parties here and there, sharing our well wishes and weird quarantine stories, trying to make light of this dark situation.
Then we encountered the privacy issues. ‘Zoom bombing’ began, with trolls hacking in, sharing screens of illicit content with unassuming users – a bit of an awkward blip when you’re halfway through your PowerPoint slides at work. Not forgetting the fact that we have young children using this platform for home schooling, and in March it was reported by Vice News that Zoom was using software that shared customers’ data with Facebook, ugh. Zoom subsequently removed this software. But system security issues aside, we have created our own set of privacy issues using this platform, particularly when it comes to the working from home side of Zoom culture – bringing to work the angles of one’s life that we don’t normally see in the office. I have witnessed a few instances of partners scurrying across the screen in a towel post-shower, or just ‘naked Wednesdays’ (OK they were in their underwear), but still. We see how our colleagues live, they learn about us in our home environment; you are essentially inviting people into your living room, so be ready for it, and maybe move the awkward stuff out of your Zoom camera view. We have all seen enough examples on social media to think we would be more cautious by now: newsreaders with no trousers on – pretty sure that was a publicity stunt though, reflections of spouses in the shower – stop filming in front of mirrors! Oh, and people urinating on screen, well not on the screen, but you know what I mean; I’m sure you saw the clip of the social worker on the loo. Oh, the horror. And if you’re going to use the toilet mid call, mute, always mute, because sound travels pretty well too. Let’s just say, the term ‘professionalism’ has a slightly different flavour to it in these lockdown times.
And like anything with time, we have seen the novelty begin to wear off, with momentum slowing down; the online quizzes seeing less participants, the fitness classes starting to see more dropouts, and way more people with their cameras switched off. Could it be the hassle of organising, sending out reminders, and rallying the troops? Or maybe we just overestimated our ability to be sociable during these distancing times? We went into lockdown thinking we would have all the time in the world, too much time to think and do nothing, when actually many of us have felt the opposite. And I’m not referring to the productivity debate – yes, many of us have used this time to be productive, but I have found myself moving so much slower than I normally do, both mentally and physically. I think this is something a lot of us have felt; the feeling that this has all been strangely exhausting, even though we’re not doing as much as we were. There is so much stagnation – in our bodies, our minds; this sedentary style of living enforces this state of lethargy, with all the sitting and the endless screen time, not to mention the waves of emotions we are bombarded with and have no control over – I guess we’re just emotionally drained, and this has a knock-on effect on our attitudes towards being sociable.
I think another reason is that we just miss the real thing; people are itching to get back to their face to face meetings (with masks on obviously), back to their gym routines, it’s as if we don’t want to perpetuate this Zoom culture as a new normal if we can help it. But also, we’ve been given a great tool to help us maintain connections, it would be so much worse without all the technology to help us stay sane. I think it’s more about everything in moderation – like it always was, and still is. And considering the privacy issues, maybe refrain from sharing your bank details on there. So in conclusion, I think, yes, Zoom is a great platform, and it has done wonders for me in quarantine, and I will definitely continue to use it – particularly for the fitness side of my business, but I think it helps to remember that a phone call (sans camera) can be just as effective sometimes, and maybe an email will suffice?