There’s a lot of video conferencing going on right now: parents are taking meetings online, students are doing distance learning through Google Classrooms and Zoom. Even religious services have gone virtual. While it has been extraordinarily beneficial, many of us are getting “zoomed out.” Video conferencing is zapping our energy, making us physically uncomfortable, and hurting our eyes.
The World Economic Forum anticipates a secondary epidemic by the end of 2020 of psychological burnout, poor emotional wellbeing, stress, and eye strain.
So, why do we feel so tapped out by Zoom?
- Our brains don’t recognize that socializing online is different from work, so we’re exhausted and stressed out from endless meetings.
- It also takes more energy to hang out with people through video because it requires us to focus more than when we were in person.
- We need to pay close attention to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language.
- Then there are those annoying technology glitches. They negatively impact us as one 2014 study showed. Even a delay of 1.2 seconds makes people perceive unfriendliness or lack of focus.
- Zoom conferences are like stage shows. We feel like we’re expected to perform and that’s a lot of pressure.
A lot about how we perceive ourselves is based on our social interactions. The self-complexity theory explains that positive interactions elicit positive feelings, so if we negatively experience our online connections, we’re not going to feel too good about ourselves.
Interestingly, the impact of video conferencing is not the same on our kids. They don’t engage as fully as adults. Prepared Parent and teacher, Amy Schwan, says, “my students may show me a corner of their eyebrow so I know they’re in virtual class, but they’re not like us. We give a full view of our faces. They just pop up occasionally to ask a question or show me they’re paying attention. It’s the same way they use Snapchat.”
Marc Prensky, founder and executive director of The Global Future Education Foundation and Institute, explains that’s because our kids are digital natives. They’ve been connected to technology their entire lives. It’s the language they were born with which is why they’re adept at multitasking and they like to receive information really fast. So, while it may drive you crazy that your kid is doing homework, texting friends, listening to music, and watching a video on YouTube all at the same time, it’s second nature to them.
Even in the best of times, kids – especially teens – connect to each other online. According to the Pew Research Center, close to half of American teens are plugged in almost constantly.
So, while this is not the time to enforce strict screen time rules, we can combat the burnout.
Designate space for work and school.
Having a designated space for video conferencing helps mark a separation between work life and home life. Use a space usage plan to set up work/school zones. At the end of the day, shut down the work space and give it back to family time.
Adopt the 20-20-20 rule
To reduce eye strain the American Optometric Association recommends taking 20 seconds to look at something 20 feet away for every 20 minutes of screen time.
If Zoom classes and conferences are causing anxiety take a few moments to just breathe. This is a one-to-one activity, so pair up with your kid (or if you have more than one child, pair them up). As you face each other, first take a deep breath in, then out, End by taking a deep breath in and a deep breath out.
Turn off the video function.
Give your eyes some reprieve by reverting back to audio-only communications, even if you’re on a video call. This may be easier for adults than kids. Teachers who are conducting online classes want to see their students’ faces to know they’re fully engaged. Kids can look away from the screen periodically and still pay attention.
Get up. Walk around. Try a few yoga poses, or a quick jog around the block. Eat a healthy, energizing snack before signing back on.
Find alternative ways to connect with family and friends.
- Maximize short bursts of time together.
- Make the dinner table a screen free zone and have a conversation.
- Read a book out loud together.
- Write letters to family and friends. These will become a precious record of the history we’re living right now.
Get a good night’s sleep.
Video conferencing is inevitable right now and may become a significant part of our post-COVID-19 lives. These tips should help make them less exhausting.