Zoom Fatigue: Yes, It’s a Thing, Now

 Zoom Fatigue: Yes, It’s a Thing, Now

By Ishma Alvi

Called Zoom fatigue, this particular type of tiredness is a result of excess video conferencing. Though always a part of modern life, the use of this tool to connect with others has never been as ubiquitous as it currently is. Though it serves a very useful purpose, it is, like anything else, not without side-effects.

The technology involved in videoconferencing, which is in a way, a little behind how our brains have evolved to interact socially. Our brains use micro- and macro-cues to supplement, reinforce, clarify and refine verbal communication. These cues can include gross or large motor movements and obvious behaviour, to far more subtle minutia of body language (some so subtle that they register e on unconscious levels, bypassing the frontal regions of our brain entirely).

And this body language continues to inform much of the communication in most social exchanges. Body language also guides the rhythm of engagement, allowing for natural pauses and gaps. Since videoconferencing typically allows you to see only the bust (head, neck and shoulders), only permits a certain range of motion (to stay within the frame), a blunting of the cues we rely on in communication occurs.  As a result of this, our brains and minds work harder with regard to both expression and reception of communication while videoconferencing.

It’s also important to note that gaps in conversation, which are typical to most communication, are perceived as more uncomfortable while videoconferencing, as the body language that allows to refine our understanding of rhythm of conversation is restricted.

Videoconferencing also requires us to hold the same position more or less for extended periods of time, whereas at work, when in the immersive and physical environment, work spaces allow room for greater movement. Even those whose work requires being seated for extended periods of time (such a psychologists!), the need to stay within camera range for videoconferencing sessions can require even less movement. So along with mental strain, there is the physical strain of staying mostly still.

There is also the unrelieved monotony that videoconferencing can bring: the same room is the meeting room, the workstation, the work desk, cafe and lunchroom. This can increase the sense of being stuck and add to the emotional and even physical strain of videoconferencing.

Finally, there is the neurological impact of being in front of a screen for extended period! The mix of light emitted by such devices has the potential to disrupt our circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are the rhythms which guide our sleep-wake cycles.  Thus far in our evolution, have been led by and timed to sunlight. We may be struggling with sleep as a result of stress. Our sleep may also be impacted by the non-physical and therefore permeable boundaries between work and non-work- therefore working longer hours. The additional factor of screen-exposure exacerbates those sleep issues. This is alongside the impact of long-term screen exposure which includes eye strain, blurred vision and headaches.

In all, with all this extra effort, some of which is unconscious, it is no wonder that a day of videoconferencing leaves us more spent.

And remember, this effort is being expended at a time when our capacities (emotional, intellectual) may already be burdened with all the other implications and fall-outs of living through a pandemic. To learn more on how to how to manage Zoom fatigue, read How to Reduce Zoom Fatigue.

This blog was written by Ishma Alvi. To learn more about Ishma’s experience, click here. Or to book an appointment to see her, or one of the other Psychologists at Vida click here.

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