‘Zoom fatigue’ rises in the pandemic

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Since March 2020, when COVID-19 first changed the way our world functioned, most meetings for both school and work have continued to meet virtually for a full year now.

As staring at a screen becomes the way most individuals spend their weeks,
it can begin to take a toll on them.

There are negative consequences to large amounts of screen time, both mentally and physically, and more studies have begun to show that this way of working, which was designed to be temporary but has turned more long-term, is not always sustainable — so much so that a phrase to describe the overwhelming feeling of too much time in and out of virtual meetings has been coined. 

“Zoom fatigue” is very real and very prevalent in the corporate and university environments of today’s society.

This phrase was recently made popular and the subject further research by Jeremy Bailenson, communications expert at Stanford University.

Bailenson found that multiple factors contribute to the overwhelming nature of Zoom and other virtual meetings, including the inability to
read nonverbal cues and the proximity of everyone’s
faces on the screen.

“On Zoom, nonverbal behavior remains complex, but users need to work harder to send and receive signals,” Bailenson wrote in his research.

Taylor Duncan, senior photography major, said that she has definitely seen the way spending extensive time on Zoom and other virtual meeting platforms has impacted herself and other students.

“I get burned out very quickly when it comes to Zoom. I want to turn off my screen and just listen to the recording,” said Duncan. “I’m not physically interacting with my peers and I miss it.”

Duncan also said there are distinct differences between the online learning setting and the in-person environment. 

“We aren’t feeding off of the energy in the room, the body language, the subtle looks in people’s eyes,” Duncan said. “It’s just interaction with a screen, which we interact with already daily.”

Rachel Toenjes, senior liberal studies major, gave her perspective on both learning virtually and teaching virtually and how this can create exhaustion on both sides.

“I am currently teaching a second-grade class virtually,” Toenjes said. “Everyone meets online for a modified school day. For me, I’ve lost out on the experience of getting to run a classroom and really getting to know my students. Although virtual learning has really impacted the students the most. It’s been almost a year of them learning this way and you can see how disinterested and disengaged they are with the learning.”

However, Toenjes also offered helpful advice to people who might be suffering from the negative effects of virtual learning and meetings. 

“Take breaks, step away from your computer when you can, make sure to
schedule in time for things that are not draining and know you are not the only one who is struggling,” Toenjes said.

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