Video calls have helped people continue to work from home and stay in touch with family and friends during the social lockdown, and for that, I'm grateful for it. But just like every other form of social media, it can all get a bit too much sometimes, especially for brain injury survivors. I, for one, am suffering from "Zoom fatigue".
Before this pandemic, I had used Zoom whilst attending online courses with others from around the world. And it was a good solution for that, although I did find it exhausting because concentrating for that long is difficult for me since my brain injury. My attention span is just a fraction of what it was, so it takes concerted effort to keep up with what's going on. Now though it seems everyone is turning to Zoom for just about everything, and it's utterly draining. But of course, this applies to all forms of video calls and conferencing; it's just that this feeling has gained the name Zoom fatigue because currently, Zoom is one of the most popular platforms for it.
Struggling to say no when people want a video chat.
Even as a child, I didn't mind talking on the phone. Yes, it's awkward if you haven't got much to say and the long pauses creep in, but otherwise, I was alright with it. For me, it was nice not to have to think about how I looked in that moment. I didn't need to brush my hair first, worry about how I was wearing odd socks or forcing on that "Oh I'm so pleased to see you smile" when it was someone I found a bit tedious. That gave me more space to concentrate on where the conversation was going. Now though it seems like everyone wants to video chat and I personally feel uncomfortable with saying no to it. I even had an admin of one of the Facebook groups I'm a member of, want to chat on Zoom even though we had never conversed before at all. What, you want to watch my reaction as you ask me to do something differently? No, I'm not going to be forced into the feeling like I'm at a job interview every day! Because that's what it feels like when we don't know each other. I'm constantly trying to pull the right expressions and say the right thing like I would if I was sat across from a potential employer.
I don't want to feel like I have to put a performance on just because you think we'll connect better if we meet virtually.
I realise that it's difficult for people to feel like they are building relationships with email or just the written word on whichever social platform they are using. Plus, it takes a lot longer to say your message because we can't write as fast as we can talk. Believe me, as a blogger, I do appreciate that. But when I don't know you and you are wanting to speak to me so you can pitch an idea or just connect with someone who you think might understand you, this video chatting is like having a cold caller come knocking at my front door. I'm already feeling less than relaxed because I've been pressured into something that I'm not comfortable with. Just like with the door-to-door salesman I will be as polite as possible, but as you can only see my face and we are basically staring at each other, I feel like I have to be even more aware of my facial expressions.
I'm constantly trying to force my social cues for you, so you don't think I'm being rude.
Face to face communication is usually easier than written communication because we also read into the other person's expressions. This helps us see that they are listening and gives us some clues about how they feel about what we are saving even before they have replied. But for many brain injury survivors, our expressions don't behave the way they used to. For example, nearly every time I try a new food or drink since my injury, I pull this face which makes it look like I think it's disgusting. I don't know why this is, and it's completely involuntary. So, if the chef was watching me and didn't know my injury makes me do this no matter what, they would think any positive feedback I then gave them was untrue because they had seen my "true reaction." My facial expressions, therefore, are something that I'm a little too aware of, and I put in extra effort to pull positive ones when meeting someone.
Hopefully, you can now understand why all these video calls are so draining for brain injury survivors. Let's stop the "Zoom fatigue", and only go for video calls when they are really needed and wanted. Next time you want to "virtually meet" someone who you haven't got a connection with yet, consider if you are being the virtual door-to-door salesman first.