Zoom Is Killing My Social Skills

Zoom Zoom Session - Charles Deluvio

Photo: Charles Deluvio

Not like there was much to kill in the first place. I mean, I’d already been struggling in the social department since I hit puberty, but Zoom is really taking things to another level. In fact, I think it’s turning us all into monsters.

How do I know? Well, I’ve had the privilege to pivot into education since the dawn of the new year, and having to spend eight hours a day on Zoom has highlighted just how much this software is killing my social abilities.

Here’s the rundown

Perhaps it’s not a me problem, eh? Maybe the blame lies on someone else. Still, maybe a little explaining could do you guys some good. So let’s start with the bad habits I’ve been picking up from spending so much time on Zoom.

My eyes are up here

I’ve gotta be honest, whenever I’m in a Zoom call, I’m actually looking at myself more than I’m looking at the people I’m talking to. And I don’t really care, because I assume it’s the same for them as well.

After all, we’re just a bunch of people staring into our monitors, so it’s pretty natural to look away from the camera, am I right?

But this is the exact thing that’s killing my social skills. After about five months of eight-hour daily Zooming, I now find it hard to look people in the eye in real life. And that’s just the start of my problems.

Using the phone mid-conversation

This is a pretty rude thing to do in real life, right? But I do it all the time while I’m on Zoom. Is it screen fatigue? Well, I’m staring at another screen so I’m going to guess not.

In fact, why don’t I just scroll through Facebook on my laptop? Why go through all the pains to hide my phone from the camera so that I have something to occupy my mind as we talk about the goings on of the day? I have zero idea.

But because of this, I’m now tempted to take out my phone every time I’m chatting with someone in real life. It’s official. I now have zero self-control. I’m doomed.

The semi-squat

You know that classic pose of sitting with one leg on the stool? That’s me when I Zoom. The good thing about having mediocre camera resolution is that my black pants aren’t typically visible against my black t-shirt, so to the unsuspecting eye, I’m just another person sitting normally on camera.

But look carefully and you’d probably catch a faint outline moving across my chest, and yes, that would be me talking to you while massaging my own foot.

I haven’t had the compulsion to do this in real life yet though. Maybe we should have lunch together or something and I can put myself to the test.

By the way, this isn’t racist because I’m Asian myself. Right?

Fidget sinner

You won’t be able to tell that I’m doing so because I’ll be doing it off camera. To you, I’m probably staring at a particularly low corner of my screen. But what I’m actually doing is twisting the earphone cable, or twirling my pen, or pressing the home button on my phone before scrolling through it mid-conversation.

I’m aware that I probably look like a coke addict going through withdrawals, but now that Zoom has afforded me the freedom to do this without your knowledge, I find myself being able to resist fidgeting less and less.

And I worry that this would be my modus operandi once we all return to normal socialising.

Man pointing at you

Some of this is your fault too, homie. Photo: Etty Fidele

But it’s not all me

Look, as much as I’d like to take all the blame for being a bad Zoomer, I have also noticed that everyone else’s etiquette game on the platform hasn’t exactly been up to par either. For instance, let’s start off with the camera-shy person.

The forehead

It’s always the forehead. The person who feels self-conscious on Zoom always tends to favour this body part as their display of choice.

It’s a pretty weird thing to talk to somebody’s forehead, and like one of those ‘highly unsatisfying videos’ you’d find on YouTube, it really does irk me that I spend the entire conversation hoping that you’d actually tilt your camera just a tad lower.

The ghost

But even that’s not as bad as the person that just attends meetings only by name—and quite literally too, sometimes. If I wanted to get ghosted, I’d just go back to Tinder. Yet here I am, dealing with people who join the meetings and turn off all forms of communication throughout.

I know we’re in the digital age now, and I should at least expect a little change in the way we interact, but man, it does feel like I’m talking to a wall sometimes when all you have for feedback is forty black boxes staring back at you.

The breather

You could argue that at least the ghosts are silent, and they rarely disrupt meetings, unlike those who breathe down the microphone, or worse, are listening to background music without muting themselves.

I think this is a good time to remind everyone that proper Zoom etiquette involves keeping yourself on mute until it’s your turn to speak.

Yes, you might want to avoid being ‘the ghost’, but that doesn’t mean you should mutter your agreements after every sentence. But perhaps I feel that way only because you’re interrupting my phone scrolling.

It’s not all bad, though

You know, as much as I enjoy bitching about Zoom, the fact is that it’s a pretty awesome platform, as I never once thought I’d be able to share my days with people from all over the world, and even get to know them much better than most of the people I’ve met in real life (though that’s probably a me problem more than anything else).

Who knew that it took a pandemic to teach us how we could adapt to anything if we really wanted to?

Except talking to people’s foreheads. Don’t think I’ll ever get used to that.

59 thoughts on “Zoom Is Killing My Social Skills

  1. Ugh! YES! TALKING TO FOREHEADS! It’s the bane of my teacher existence. Also asking a question and being answered by silence. My students mostly have their cameras completely off, so actually, now that I think on it, talking to a forehead is actually way better than the black screen, their ceiling, or worse, some horrible avatar of Trump’s face pasted onto Rambo’s body leering at me day after day. If we can see you in person, why aren’t we allowed to see you on Zoom? SMH. I just don’t understand.

    • Lol yeah the meme photos can throw me off too sometimes. But at least I get to match a name to SOMETHING, especially if it’s with a group I’m not familiar with. And yeah, I think the worst part about attendees having their cameras off is that I can’t judge if my joke is funny or not because I can’t see whether they’re smiling or cringing. Anyway, thanks for dropping by!

  2. This post just came in the right time, since I had four whole Zoom meetings in a row just this morning. (Spoiler alert: It was damn boring.)
    I agree so much with #1!!! I’m a self-conscious human who seriously can’t get over talking to a screen. (How do YouTubers do it? Never mind. They probably loooove how they look.)
    And Stuart, *sighs* ain’t we all bad Zoomers? Okay, maybe some of us are. ‘Cause the forehead…Oh, the forehead. And when I muster my voice and try to ask why their beautiful face-top is taking the view, I’m met with awkward mumblings that basically mean, “My forehead is the best part of my morning face.”
    (But BTW, in all seriousness, when I privately ask them about the forehead, they say it’s because they have a PC screen monitor badly paired up with a low seat.)
    Yeah, I do suppose Zoom takes the credit to secure our business communications during hard times like these. (Oh, damn. I said that again. Now I flinch every time I hear “hard times” or “pandemic”.)
    P.S. I heard this guy talking on Zoom in a meeting earlier — sounded like a seal getting the Heimlich Maneuver. Later I figured out it was “wind getting into his mic,” which doesn’t make much sense because I was pretty sure he wasn’t sitting in a public garden. Actually, wait. I don’t want to know.
    Thank you so much for the post! (I’m pretty sure thank yous don’t come after P.S.s, but who am I to know? I’m afraid I don’t have the “must-have” The Elements of Style on my bookshelf, sorry.) It was certainly a great read, and I could relate to a lot of it. Keep going!
    P.S.S. I apologize for the long comment. Must be a pain to read. Thanks once again!

    • Lol it’s long comments like yours that make up for the hours I spent on my post. It’s really encouraging to have you want to share this much, and I do enjoy going through your comments every time you drop one here.

      You’ve just reminded me that I’d totally left one one huge demographic though, and that’s the person that’s always on the go. The one who’s listening in while they chop their vegetables or driving.

      Whoa, I can handle a long Zoom session, but FOUR back-to-back meetings in one morning? That’s pretty challenging.

      Anyway, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts as always, and I’m always curious to what you’ll share next!

      • Aww, thank you so much! I’m flattered *batting my eyelashes and looking innocent*. No, but really, though, it’s been great to have an exchange of comments; It’s connections like these that make our online identity something. As always, thanks for posting and replying!

  3. I’ve had zoom meetings, but not as frequent as you are describing. It is true. The kind of physically face to face rapport is simply not there. Somehow the verbal cue, facial cue, and other cues I enjoy when meeting with real people are largely lost too. I don’t understand why but that’s certainly the case. LOL.

    • Cue the face to face meetings.

      I mean, I could do without meetings altogether, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, and asking “is everybody clear” without getting any replies for twenty seconds can be a tad unnerving sometimes.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

  4. This is so true! Now just think about the kids who are still in the process building and learning social skills who have been doing this for a year. I took my kids to a park, and half the others there were thrilled to play with people. The other half looked like they’d just forgotten how to interact. 😭

    • Oh my, I can’t imagine growing up with Zoom as my yardstick for social interactions. That’d give me so much more trouble than I already have, and I can’t imagine anything worse than me.

      By the way, thanks so much for dropping this comment, Anne!

  5. I really like your writing style. Smart, self-deprecating, and funny.

    I also enjoyed your piece on the Pehelwans of Pune. I grew up in Pune and I had a cousin who was into the pehelwan lifestyle. Very authentic, and well-written.

    • Oh wow! Very few people actually get to that piece, and I’m glad I managed to do your hometown justice. It was a beautiful trip filled with adventure, and I do thank you for bringing that good part of my life up.

      Thanks for this and also, thanks for stopping by here. I appreciate it!

      (p.s. just wanna let you know that your Gravatar account is linked to an inactive site, just in case you want it to link to gaurisirur.wordpress.com instead of gaurithedreamer.wordpress.com)

  6. stuart, Excellent post! I am not on Zoom as much as you shared but I can relate to what you are saying. I have turned off my video and used only when required. I was reading an article about it that says that going to an audio version of Zoom can help with fatigue. a

  7. HAHA I’m the shy one that never wants to show my face on zoom (they probably think I just rolled out of bed and that’s why… They’re not wrong though lol)… I hate looking at myself but yes when I’m on a zoom and I am not a cat icon then I do tend to just stare at myself to see what flaws others might be looking at lol…

    • Lol, it’s like a mirror that highlights how much your hair is out of place, but adjusting it while you’re talking to someone else is a bit too obvious because then they’ll know you’re looking at yourself.

      Thanks for stopping by as usual. I appreciate you!

  8. The forehead view! Ah, so true. I have caught myself doing it. I hate Zooming…feels post-apocalyptic, like I am talking to people while I am holed up in a bunker. Ah, to see people’s full faces in person again!

      • lol…Oh so true. I try not to listen to myself either. So funny. The world sees us as they do but… ugh. Zoom is what it is. I too have come to accept it as an important business tool…it is what it is. I have to accept that. Thanks Stuart. Always enjoy your posts.

  9. When its more than one person is usually when I fidget. The screen becomes distracting, too much to look at. Yet I can be in front of a crowd and keep track of people and not be distracted.
    The whole concept is a marvel but it is just a tool for when life necessitates its use. I think because we have all had and I emphasise the had, to use it, its value varies.
    I love it but I don’t want to use it unless there is a genuine need. At the moment that need is dictated by global conditions and not our own reason, business or personal, to get together.

    • Oh yeah. It’s WAY more necessary than it needs to be though. In a way, I’m not complaining, because there have been many new business opportunities that had risen from this way of doing things, but if I have to talk to one more forehead…

      Anyway, thanks for stopping by!

  10. thanks for putting into words all the humorous experiences that many of us have probably had. While I like Zoom for some things, I also year for a world where it’s not the only option…

    • Ahaha, and you would know, Jim, being a teacher and all. Well, it is a solid piece of technology anyway, allowing us to bridge across challenge we wouldn’t have otherwise. But hey, here’s to going back to face-to-face life someday!

  11. Absolutely. Great rundown of real world zoom. Eight hour days? Yipes. I would go mad. Add face masks in cubicles and you only see 12 surgical mask squares. Why bother with video? Another great post.

    • Hahaha. Sometimes it’s a toss-up between weirdly-angled videos or none at all, and in some weird way, I actually prefer video, because then at least it feels like I’m talking to SOMEBODY. Thanks so much for commenting!

  12. You shared a lot on Zoom…which is something I never wanted to try.

    The first time I heard about Zoom was around the time the lockdown started.
    A social group that I wanted to regularly join…I joined twice, and then I couldn’t due to my own situation.
    Then, when the lockdown happened…they switched to Zoom, but I won’t join in.

    There is something about people meeting and spending time together in person…something that cannot be experienced over the phone, Zoom, or whatever platform.

    Whatever it is, I have no idea about your social struggles.
    When people…or even you, put up a picture of yourself in a…very positive expression, it made me to think and imagine you to be…positive, ya know. Only positive thoughts/fantasies about you.
    I won’t know anything negative or your struggles or anything like that unless you share about them yourself.

    • Lol yeah. There are always two sides to life, and I enjoy sharing them all. In the end, it’s the writing about my experiences that helps me process my own thoughts.

      Thanks so much for dropping by again, and also to share about your own experiences with Zoom. Always good to read a long comment or two. Great thoughts!

  13. I am so talented at being shy that I’m quite possibly the only human being on earth who has successfully avoided using Zoom one time in the past year, except for maybe a quick hello and a hand wave blocking my face as I run behind someone on the computer to get past them as fast as I can. And this only occurred in the context of family. But all your points are hilarious and I can see they’re true without even having used Zoom.

    • Hahaha wow, so I guess I can sympathise with ‘The Forehead’ a bit more now, because they’re probably dealing with shyness as well. That’s a good perspective to share, Hetty, and I’m glad you did!

  14. I always snigger at those who openly yawn during Zoom calls! Haha…but I do so of course with my camera turned off. Just can’t understand why these “yawners” leave their cameras on during Zoom meetings when they are merely there to listen and have no need to contribute. But ya I hear you. That’s why it’s so important now and then to go meet someone outside, sit somewhere “socially-distanced” of course and just chat over a cuppa…maybe one day when borders are lifted, you and I can do that yea?

    • Lol that would be super cool, wouldn’t it? To actually meet people you meet on WordPress. Let’s hope we get over the pandemic somehow so that could happen. Thanks so much for stopping by, Kelvin!

  15. WHY ARE WE LIVING THE SAME LIFE?

    Literally almost everything mentioned here is me. Sometimes I’m the person in name only but I always make an effort to turn my camera on, especially if other people have theirs on 😂

    This whole post just called me out. I love it! 😂

  16. Try interviewing on Zoom (or Teams or Google Hangouts or your favorite video call platform). Especially a panel interview with multiple interviewers. All that advice about how you’re supposed to make a good impression in interviews by making eye contact – yeah, that did not happen at all!

    The attire is more comfortable, certainly. I was all blazer up top and sweatpants on the bottom for the Zoom interviews. I had an in-person last week (and another this week) and I realized I actually needed to wear a full top–to-bottom interview-appropriate outfit. Readjusting back to society is strange

    • Lol, yeah, eye contact on these platforms is definitely impossible, since you’re both basically looking at the screen and away from the camera.

      Me too! I wear comfy pants as well, but people on Zoom don’t need to know that, hahaha.

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience, and for showing support as you always do. Always a pleasure having you here :)

  17. Pingback: Zoom Is Killing My Social Skills – Maxinfo24

  18. City council meetings on Zoom, a real reality gong show. People have trouble filtering themselves on Facebook, Twitter and such but this is better. It’s live with no after the fact editing or deleting.

  19. Ahaha loved reading this post, and it is sooo true 😂 Luckily, I don’t have a lot of meetings or Zoom calls at my job, but when I do, it’s just so exhausting! I feel like my ability to focus – which is already pretty low – decreases by a thousand if I have to listen to someone talk on screen, especially if I don’t have anything to say…. I somehoew find it very draining, but I guess coming back to real meetings where you actually have to react is gonna be just as exhausting 😂

  20. AHAHAH. As someone who has completed two semesters online, I can confirm the forehead one is very real! And that just reminds me, zoom puts you into some very weird situation sometimes, like being the first one to join a meeting with your instructor and having nothing to say, or being put in a breakout room with strangers xD
    Love the humor!

    • Oh yeah, usually during those times I just leave the camera off until everyone else joins, both as the person conducting the meeting and an attendee, lol.

      New technologies do bring a new set of problems, that’s for sure.

  21. Oh, I’ve had so many breathers in meetings. 😣

    Another thing that I find distracting is when people use those Zoom backgrounds and then I have to watch their hair or even their whole face just disappear while they’re talking. Once somebody ended up as literally just eyes and a mouth talking out of what looked like swamp water. I get that they don’t want people judging their messy room or whatever, but I would honestly have an easier time tuning out a chaotic but stable room compared to a constantly advancing and retreating fake background. Not to mention I really can’t look them in the eye if their eyes have pulled a vanishing act. 😅

    • Lol, I can only imagine the pain my students feel because I’m required to use a background, but my computer isn’t fast enough, so I do sometimes turn up as a smurf (background is blue).

      Anyway, thanks for adding to the conversation. I appreciate it!

      • It’s more for branding/standardisation reasons. We have to show that we’re from the company by using their backgrounds. I’d much rather do without though. It’s pretty distracting for them when my teeth turn blue lol.

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