As soon as you get that email, your heart starts pounding, “please join Zoom meeting in progress” Fantastic, yet another chance to be scrutinized by thirty people all at once. That’s not a meeting, that’s an audition. This is a growing phenomenon phycologists have termed, “Zoom Fatigue.”
The global pandemic has made video conferencing the most important tool in business. I wish I’d have had the foresight to buy shares in Zoom or Skype before the world caved in. Back in January they were worth pence, now you could sell them and retire in the Algarve with your very own butler.
When recruiting new staff for the office, historically a boss would look at your experience, or your ability to work as a team. Now it’s how good your broadband is and the resolution of your webcam. This lack of physical human contact isn’t normal though, in fact I think it’s an invasion of privacy.
When you’re in the office, you can avoid boring Colin when he’s walking towards you down the corridor. You do a tuck and roll into an empty meeting room, pretend to have another phone call, fake death, anything to avoid his mood hoovering demeanour. With Zoom its impossible, eight hours a day, seven days a week, he can be there with you, sat in your own living room, staring into your eyes and slowly eroding your will to live.
Having to be on guard all the time is tiring, you can’t relax. People often Zoom in front of a bookcase, to make them look intelligent. Always remember though that the other viewers are looking at what is behind you, so play it safe. The Dictionary, a couple of Bill Bryson novels, a few cookbooks. Don’t sit there with fifteen copies of Mein Kampf in the background and a Haynes manual for a Volkswagon Beetle; you’ll be furloughed faster than you can say “COVID.” It’s tapped into our love of being nosey. People are speaking but we really aren’t listening, we’re looking at their houses. It’s like an episode of “Through The Keyhole.”
Karen will be giving a presentation on the latest sales figures and all you can think is, “my god, she’s got a rubbish sofa. I think the springs have gone on that. What wallpaper is that? Al Fresco I reckon, someone got their bonus this year, look at the dust on her telly; disgraceful!”
The tidiest place in your house now is anything in the range of the Webcam. Down that lens is the life you aspire too. Clean lines, fresh flowers, perfect lighting, it’s like an Apple advert. A few millimetres either side; crack den. Piles of dirty plates, last night’s takeaway boxes and underwear hanging from light fittings like voodoo trophies.
The worst bit is when you are waiting to go into the Zoom meeting. All you can see is your own horrible face and hair. You look tired, greasy and have jowls hanging down like a fat badger.
I’m starting to detest the “join with video” button. I don’t want to “join with video” can’t we do audio? You know what I look like. They should have a button that allows you to “join with someone else’s face” that would be wonderful. Imagine doing a meeting to discuss the new company logo with George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
There is no good camera angle. I’ve seen more nostrils these past few months than a toddlers finger. You can try putting your laptop on books, hanging the webcam from a light fitting. You could send a drone with a GoPro hundreds of feet up into the air, but you still look ugly.
It’s not normal conversation either, because you are acutely aware of everyone’s body language. Even the slightest facial expression is registered. You feel like a Police Officer, watching a press conference, where you just know the person making the appeal is as guilty as hell.
“Janet rolled her eyes then, she hates me.”
“Now Keith looks bored.”
“Great, I’ve offended Carol.”
“Did Dave just swear at me?”
You can’t speak properly because of the delay, you just constantly say, “No you go first, no after you.” Are we talking here or holding the door open?
“You can get trapped in these Zoom meetings, because the worst thing is, everyone knows that you can’t go anywhere.”
Everyone is shouting at each other, it’s just mayhem, it sounds like a football match. It’s the internet, you have a microphone, stop bellowing at me like Brian Blessed you moron.
You can get trapped in these Zoom meetings, because the worst thing is, everyone knows that you can’t go anywhere. You can try and leave but no-one will let you.
“I’ve got to go guys sorry.”
“Where, where can you go, we’re in Lockdown!”
“Err, over near the plant for a bit.”
Every Zoom meeting ends the same way, doesn’t it? People frantically looking around their phone or laptop to try and find the “Leave meeting button” We are then all treated to ten minutes of waggling fingers in full 3D, coming towards us like pink tentacles as they fumble around the screen.
They’ll be a lot of people realizing how much their friends actually hate them now. If they don’t make an effort now it’s unlikely that they’re going to when the world returns to normal. People are literally spending all day sitting around staring at the walls and waiting for deliveries, they’ve had hours of free time and they still don’t call you. Imagine getting stood up now for a better internet offer, that would be brutal.
“Sorry mate I can’t come to your Zoom birthday, my third cousin is doing a Disney Quiz!”
Speaking of quizzes, please someone save me from this hell. Every single day there is another one, it’s absolutely endless, I feel like I’m in a never-ending edition of Mastermind. Our kids aren’t getting educated now, they are just learning loads of pointless trivia. They will grow up with no qualifications, unable to get a job, but at least they’ll be able to tell you what the depth of Lake Tahoe is to the nearest metre.
What I would say is that if you’re a quizmaster enjoy this moment in the spotlight. You might be popular now, but try hosting a zoom quiz after lockdown.
“No thanks Kev you weirdo, we only let you do it because you had the best broadband, now we’re off out for a drink with our real friends. This is one round you aren’t involved in!”
The Zoom host has all the power. It’s basically a dictatorship. Sitting there lauding it over everyone, monitoring the screens, like a perverted security guard.
“Obey me or I will silence you!”
Looking good on Zoom is now a major concern for people, it’s like the nightmare of the Instagram selfie but live. I have seen tutorials on YouTube. These American Zoom Guru’s, with their perfect physique, skin and teeth, telling us how beautiful we can look just by switching on a desk lamp. They claim that they can help you “slay your Zoom meeting.”
They offer handy tips like the clothing you should wear (simple and professional) the way you should always look interested, by sitting there with an inane grin on your face like a Waxwork Amanda Holden.
Working from home isn’t easy, especially when the children are trapped with you. But fear not, the Guru has advice for you there too. “Tell the children that when the computer is on, Mummy or Daddy are working. If they are going to choke on those grapes, they need to do it outside of work hours.”
Stop putting pressure on yourself, it’s an achievement at the moment just to get out of bed, just get through the days, that’s all we need to do. This isn’t about winning or succeeding, it’s about surviving.
Just have a whip-round with a wet wipe and put some pants on, that’s all you need to do. Oh and don’t worry about boring Colin, before you know it things will have returned to normal and then you can ignore him in person.