It’s not just zoom; most popular video chat platforms are susceptible to design flaws that result in human mind and body exhaustion. However, there are ways to diminish their effects.
With the surge of the COVID-19 pandemic, multitude of individuals have utilized videoconferencing platforms to connect with their colleagues and friends, ‘Zoom’ is interchangeably used to represent the concept of videoconferencing as the most frequently used medium for communication due to prevalent measures of social distancing, however Stanford Researchers warn of the adverse effects of long video calls. The tiredness that stems from the excessive use of video conferencing platforms is termed ‘Zoom Fatigue’.
To further validate how real Zoom fatigue is Stanford’s survey asks participants to share their experiences of using zoom by addressing questions regarding a person’s general fatigue, physical fatigue, social fatigue, emotional fatigue and motivational fatigue. This led them to the development of ZEF “Zoom Exhaustion and Fatigue scale”.
Due to the recent boom in videoconferencing, communication Professor Jeremey Bailenson, founding director of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL), in his published journal Technology, Mind and Behavior on Feb 23, examined the psychological consequences of spending excessive hours per day on these platforms. Beilenson assesses the medium from its individual technical aspects and identifies 4 consequences that lead to Zoom fatigue. Moreover, he provides suggestions for interface changes and modifications of current features that may decrease fatigue.
Reasons for Zoom fatigue and how to reduce them?
1. The proximity of faces and intense eye contact cause discomfort
It is important to understand how engaging on these video platforms is unnatural: the amount of intense eye contact and size of faces on screens when compared to normal real-life meetings causes discomfort among many and contributes to a stressful experience.
As we identify other sources of stress derived from the use of zoom, we acknowledge how it invades one’s personal space by creating an intense situation leaving most in a hyper aroused state. The size of monitors and interface used results in the visualization of faces that are too uncomfortably close, which discards the concept of an intimate space similar to interacting on a one-on-one basis.
Solution: Until changes to the interface are implemented it is suggested to take zoom out of the full screen option and reduce the size of the zoom window relative to monitor size through an external keyboard, this allows for maintenance of an optimum personal space between oneself and the grid that overcomes discomfort.
2. Viewing oneself constantly during video chats may cause mental health issues and fatigue
It is well acknowledged how excessively looking at oneself causes one to become critical of themselves, as many people use video calls on a perfunctory basis which displays one’s face in a square on a video chat, they are subjected to experiencing negative emotional consequences intensely similar to seeing a reflection of themselves in a mirror.
Solution: It is suggested to use the hide ‘self-view’ button until platforms change the concept of beaming the video to self and others.
3. The lack of usual mobility in video calls
Unlike phone and audio phone conversations that still permit individuals to move around, while videoconferencing limits mobility as most cameras have a set field of view; being restricted to the same spot is unnatural. Consequently, limited movement may hinder cognitive performance as suggested by growing research.
Solution: The use of an external keyboard for creation of more distance and flexibility. An external camera may introduce more mobility for users. Alternatively, it is also suggested to periodically turn off one’s video for a brief nonverbal rest.
4. Inability to convey visual gestures well causes cognitive load
Many users struggle communicating well in video chats as interpretations of nonverbal cues and gestures could vary on an individual basis, this results in more cognitive load compared to regular face to face interactions that occur more naturally. One has to work harder to receive and send signals on a video call as gestures could mean different things in a video meeting context.
Solution: During long meetings, it is recommended to have audio only breaks and turning one’s body away from the screen to extricate oneself from overburdening cognitive load.
How alternative videoconferencing platforms to Zoom make the experience different?
As Stanford’s survey evidently suggests the causes behind zoom fatigue and highlights key issues with long hours of videoconferencing, video platform providers are aiming to change certain technical aspects by reducing onscreen stimuli. They attempt to recognize what the audience is looking for, as many are subjected to multitude of video chats during a regular day.
In order to achieve a more pleasing experience, a number of options are being readily available on video platforms. To begin with, the display of content is made more prominent: the individual speaking is placed front and center with the leverage of switching options. This speaker isolation makes the experience less confusing for audiences as they are not distracted by backgrounds. Therefore, panel discussions are not long and arduous but permit one to have wider viewership.
Secondly, the unique customization when producing an event is enabled with features like the use of lower thirds which promote more control and better viewing aspects. As a matter of fact, a moderator has the choice of easily adding or removing people when a conversation takes place.
Thirdly, the platform allows the sharing of content e.g., sources like pre roll or promotional videos: this not only supports the content but also adds value to the discussion in process. Additionally, the platform also allocates users the option of going full screen which aids the overall visual experience.
Apart from these features, users have the option of going live using broadcast cameras, which resolves mobility restrictions. It is certain that event organizers want real dialogue with audiences and contemplate how this technology is used.
Conclusively, the tools offered on these platforms should consider the audience and the way they interact on these platforms, by innovating the technology that produces these events to make for a memorable experience. The introduction of these features not only reduces the on-screen stimuli but is consistent with how people consume media. These developments in technology strive to overcome fatigue and place emphasis towards the audience’s preferences.
webinar.net is an alternative platform to zoom that offers these features and aids the user’s virtual experience, making interaction and engagement more pleasant and resourceful.
- Ramachandran, V. (2021). Four causes for ‘Zoom fatigue’ and their solutions | Stanford News. Stanford News. Retrieved 30 September 2021, from https://news.stanford.edu/2021/02/23/four-causes-zoom-fatigue-solutions/.