The Trouble With Zooming Forever (2022)

The Trouble With Zooming Forever (1)

How to Build a Lifeis a weekly column by Arthur Brooks, tackling questions of meaning and happiness. Click here to listen to his podcast series on all things happiness, How to Build a Happy Life.

“If, as it is said to be not unlikely in the near future—the principle of sight is applied to the telephone as well as that of sound, earth will be in truth a paradise, and distance will lose its enchantment by being abolished altogether,” the British author Arthur Mee wrote in 1898.

So, fellow Zoomers, how do you like paradise? It turns out that in nirvana, the customary greeting is “I think you’re on mute” and your colleagues may or may not be wearing pants.

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Zoom and related technologies were necessary during the COVID-19 shutdowns. At a time when more than 40 percent of the U.S. labor force was working full-time from home, videoconferencing arguably saved the economy from much worse collapse. Even as workplaces have opened back up, these technologies have allowed some workers to increase their productivity and given businesspeople options if they want to avoid the appalling state of commercial air travel.

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But these technologies are not costless in quality of work, or in quality of life. Videochatting may promise the benefits of face-to-face meeting without germs and commuting. But it can provoke burnout for many, and even depression. When it comes to human interaction, it is like junk food: filling and convenient, but no substitute for a healthy diet.

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By now, you have no doubt heard of “Zoom fatigue,” the range of maladies, including exhaustion and headaches, that are associated with hours and hours of virtual meetings. Survey data from October 2020—when 71 percent of people who could perform their job from home were doing so all or most of the time—revealed that among those using videoconferencing often, more than a third were worn out by it. Not surprisingly, Zoom fatigue rises with frequency and duration of meetings.

Before 2020, very few scholars were focused on the effects of virtual interaction, so research on what Zoom life is doing to us—and why—is in its infancy. One review of the emerging literature in the journal Electronic Markets found that Zoom fatigue has six root causes: asynchronicity of communication (you aren’t quite in rhythm with others, especially when connections are imperfect); lack of body language; lack of eye contact; increased self-awareness (you are looking at yourself a lot of the time); interaction with multiple faces (you are focusing on many people at once in a small field of view, which is confusing and unnatural); and multitasking opportunities (you check your email and the news while trying to pay attention to the meeting).

Read: The hidden toll of remote work

Scientists have found that videoconferencing affects many different kinds of brain activity. Among other things, it mutes mirror neurons (which help us understand and empathize with others) and confounds our Global Positioning System neurons (which code our location). In the latter case, virtual interaction creates confusion and burnout by placing the Zoomer simultaneously in one physical space and another—perhaps very distant—virtual space. Think of what happens to your phone battery when it is on Waze trying to figure out where you are. It might feel a lot like what happens to your mental energy when your brain is trying to figure out where you are—and it might help explain why an hour on Zoom can feel like four hours in person.

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Although having virtual interactions may be better for well-being than having no social interactions, using video-calling to the point of fatigue has been shown to predict high rates of depression, anxiety, stress, and dissatisfaction with life. Virtual interaction is notably problematic for students, which helps explain the disastrous learning outcomes during the pandemic, especially for at-risk youth. This principle extends to college students: One 2021 study in the journal NeuroRegulation found that almost 94 percent of undergraduates had “moderate to considerable difficulty with online learning.”

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At work, virtual interactions appear to cause two main problems (besides basic unpleasantness): lower performance and suppressed creativity. In a 2021 report in the Journal of Applied Psychology, researchers who monitored 103 virtual workers’ fatigue during meetings found that when workers used their camera (versus having it turned off), they were less engaged during meetings that day and the one after as well. Scholars writing in Nature in 2022 found that videoconferencing inhibits the production of creative ideas. Virtual work may also lead to more siloing in the workplace as worker networks become more static. I have heard these complaints constantly in my field of academia, which relies on creativity and sharing ideas. As one friend who started teaching at a new university at the beginning of the pandemic told me, “Even after a million faculty meetings on Zoom, I still couldn’t pick three of my colleagues out of a police lineup.”

The balance of evidence to date suggests that some people suffer a lot more from Zoom fatigue than others, but that for millions it likely deteriorates well-being, and for some—especially young people—this can be catastrophic for learning and mental health. For happiness and productivity, virtual interactions are better than nothing. But in-person interactions are better than virtual ones for life satisfaction, work engagement, and creativity.

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Like most things, the right amount of virtual interaction is not zero. But for many of us, the amount we’re getting presently is too high. Each of us should think about virtual interaction more or less like nonnutritious food: In a pinch it’s okay, but we shouldn’t rely on it for regular social sustenance, because it will hurt our health.

Read: We need to stop trying to replicate the life we had

Accordingly, employers, teachers, and friends should use the technologies as judiciously as possible, keeping virtual meetings, classes, and conversations short and to-the-point. And each of us should practice good Zoom hygiene by insisting on boundaries around our use of the technology. When possible, turn off your camera during meetings; use the old-fashioned phone with friends; agree with colleagues before meetings to an absolute, drop-dead end time, ideally after 30 minutes or less. Also, pay attention to the creeping effects of Zoom fatigue, such as burnout and depression, and make sure you have regular breaks from the technology, such as no-Zoom weekends and a complete moratorium during your summer vacation, if you take one. Finally, on your Zoomiest days, program in some time with at least one real live human.

What bothers me the most about video-based technologies is that they make the realest part of life—human interaction—feel fake. If you are a fan of futurism, you know that some would say that such a feeling could be close to the truth of our situation: Many scientists and philosophers have suggested that we all might be living in a simulation of some advanced civilization. As fantastic as it sounds, Scientific American reported in 2020 that the odds of this are probably about 50–50.

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Read: You’re gonna miss Zoom when it’s gone

I don’t know how to assess this hypothesis, but I don’t want it to be true. I want my life to be “base reality”—my temporal body to be genuine flesh and my soul something that is authentic and eternal. I want happiness and love to be real. This is, I suppose, a philosophical objection to our sudden move into virtual space with one another: Virtual interaction is a simulation of real human life. The images on the screen are not other humans; they are digital icons representing humans in a way that makes me interact with them like fellow humans.

Just as I want to be real, I want you to be as well. I want you to be something more than a two-dimensional pixelated image, assembled from a series of ones and zeroes through cyberspace. So, if it’s all the same to you, let’s meet in person.


Why does Zoom fatigue happen? ›

The phenomenon of Zoom fatigue has been attributed to an overload of nonverbal cues and communication that does not happen in normal conversation, and the increased average size of groups in video calls.

How common is Zoom fatigue? ›

A Pew Research Center survey conducted in October 2020 – when 71% of those whose jobs can be done from home were teleworking all or most of the time – found that 37% of regular teleworkers who often used online conferencing said they were worn out by the amount of time spent on video calls, while 63% said they were ...

Does the word Zoom fatigue exist? ›

Zoom fatigue, also known as virtual meeting fatigue, is the feeling of exhaustion that often occurs after attending a series of virtual video meetings.

What is Zoom anxiety? ›

What is Zoom anxiety? Zoom anxiety overlaps with what researchers call Zoom fatigue — a strong sense of post-meeting exhaustion. If virtual meetings make you both tired and anxious, you might experience physical anxiety symptoms or panic in addition to the fatigue.

Why is Zoom so hard? ›

Video calls require more mental processing than face-to-face interactions. We have to work harder to process non-verbal cues such as facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice and body language. This additional focus is very energy intensive and could explain this feeling of fatigue.

What is Zoom dysmorphia? ›

It is defined as dissatisfaction with one's own appearance secondary to the increasing use of Zoom in daily life and comparing one's appearance with others and seeking cosmetic consultations. 5. Prolonged Zoom dysmorphia may trigger development of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) or may even worsen preexisting BDD.

How many hours of Zoom is too much? ›

However, both because of needing to leave adequate time to focus, as well as the realities of how much productive work can actually be accomplished in a day, we recommend no more than two to three hours each day spent in virtual (video) meetings, with at least a 15 minute break between each meeting.

How long is too long for a Zoom meeting? ›

If you are a basic (free) user, 40 minutes is the maximum duration your meetings can last. If you need to have meetings longer than 40 minutes, you can upgrade your account or the account owner or admin will need to assign you a license.

What is Zoom burnout? ›

While working from home has long been a sought-after perk for some employees, a new reality of frequent online meetings and an inability to disconnect from the job has created a new stressor called “Zoom burnout.” Workplace burnout is nothing new, but this new digital version has its own idiosyncrasies.

Do you have Zoom fatigue 7 ways to cope? ›

How to reduce Zoom fatigue
  • Avoid multitasking. It can be tempting to do something else during Zoom meetings, but it's best to resist the urge. ...
  • Reduce stimuli on the screen. ...
  • Switch to phone or email. ...
  • Take short breaks. ...
  • Hide self-view. ...
  • Give yourself more space.
13 Jul 2021

How do you deal with digital burnout? ›

With that in mind, here are a few real-world strategies for fighting digital burnout:
  1. Don't Respond Right Away. Many people feel the need to drop what they're doing and answer messages as soon as they come in. ...
  2. Leave It at Work. ...
  3. Face-to-Face, Not Screen-to-Screen. ...
  4. Cull Your Digital Herd.
9 Oct 2020

Why are online meetings so exhausting? ›

Whatever video platform you're using, you've no doubt experiencing serious Zoom fatigue. According to neuroscience experts, our systems find staring so directly not just at our own but at other people's faces on screens unnatural - it gives us so much information to process. It's brain overload.

Can Zoom cause migraines? ›

Our eyes simply were not designed to stare at screens all day everyday, and doing so can lead to unpleasant symptoms including: Headaches and migraines. Eye irritation and pain. Blurred and double vision.

How do you politely ask to turn your camera on? ›

How to Ask Someone to Turn on Their Webcam - YouTube

How can I be confident on Zoom? ›

How to Look More Confident in Zoom Meetings
  1. Good Lighting. One of the easiest things that you can do to look more confident in Zoom Meetings is to invest in lighting. ...
  2. Touch Up Your Appearance. ...
  3. Practice Proper Sitting Posture. ...
  4. Improve Microphone Quality & Settings. ...
  5. Create Eye-Contact With the Camera.
15 Jan 2022

What is the main symptoms of anxiety? ›

Common anxiety signs and symptoms include:
  • Feeling nervous, restless or tense.
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom.
  • Having an increased heart rate.
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • Sweating.
  • Trembling.
  • Feeling weak or tired.
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry.

What is camera anxiety? ›

Scopophobia, or camera phobia, is the excessive fear of being watched. But even if you aren't excessively afraid of the camera, according to Harvard Business Review, humans are hardwired to kick into fight-or-flight mode when they're being watched.

What is video fatigue? ›

With more and more people utilizing video calls as their main method of keeping in touch, a phenomenon known as video call fatigue has become more widespread. In some instances, people are finding that they are feeling more exhausted when working from home than they would when working in the office.

What are negative impacts of Zoom? ›

In short, Zoom fatigue is a general feeling of mental fatigue and exhaustion caused by video conferencing. If you're in front of the camera all day or required to take part in multiple video calls each day, it will ultimately take its toll on you and your mental stamina.

How do I overcome video call anxiety? ›

For a performance situation, I would also recommend practicing what you might say on your own — in front of a mirror or on a video chat where you are the only person. Then try practicing with a friend so that you can feel more comfortable with what you are going to say and the video chat format.

Does Zoom make you look older? ›

If you look older on Zoom, it could be because video calls can warp your self-image, according to a dermatologist. " Zoom face" is an altered perception of your face that makes you look older than you are. Pandemic stress may contribute to accelerated aging , experts say.

What is face dysmorphia? ›

“With facial dysmorphia, the individual is focused on the face,” explains Dr. Heinberg. “It could be your nose or eyes. It could be that you're concerned about wrinkles or acne. And it can even be that your face is too thin.

How is Zoom dysmorphia different from Snapchat dysmorphia? ›

But Zoom dysmorphia is different. Unlike with Snapchat, where people are aware that they're viewing themselves through a filter, video conferencing distorts our appearance in ways we might not even realize, as Kourosh and her coauthors identified in their original paper.

How do you get around Zoom's 40 minute limit? ›

Towards the end of the 40 minutes, simply close the meeting, and then restart it (the same meeting, same ID, same link) and everyone can re-join again – you'll have another 40 mins. You can do this as often as needed.

What happens if you go over 40 minutes on Zoom? ›

One-on-one meetings set up using a free account will now automatically end after 40 minutes. Those of you who create Zoom meetings with a free account will now be kicked off after 40 minutes no matter how many people are on the call.

How long is the average Zoom meeting? ›

Since 2020, Zoom's quarterly revenue has grown by almost 600%. The average Zoom meeting length is 31 to 60 minutes.

Does Zoom cut you off after 40 minutes? ›

Meeting ends after 40 minutes (active or idle)

All meetings scheduled and hosted by Basic (free) users, on Free and Paid accounts, are limited to 40 minutes, regardless of number of participants in attendance. This includes: 1 host, no participants.

Does free Zoom have a time limit? ›

A free Zoom account has a time limit of 40 minutes for each session. You can upgrade to Zoom Pro if you need to have group meetings that last longer than 40 minutes. With Zoom Pro, you get unlimited meeting time.

Is Google meet better than Zoom? ›

Google Meet offers 24 hours of meeting time for one-on-ones, whereas Zoom offers 30 hours. Google Meet doesn't allow a meeting recording until you pay for Google Workspace Business Standard, which is $12 per user per month, whereas with Zoom's free version, you can still record the meeting.

What is digital fatigue? ›

Digital fatigue is a state of mental exhaustion and disengagement that occurs among people who are required to use numerous digital tools and apps concurrently.

What is online fatigue? ›

Online learning fatigue is the overwhelming sense of exhaustion, anxiety, stress, or burnout employees feel due to constant online calls and meetings. Quite similar to “Zoom fatigue,” this state of weariness can pose a challenge to employee learning and development.

What is screen fatigue? ›

Screen fatigue is basically when, due to long periods of looking at a screen without rest, the muscles in and around our eyes get worn out and strained. One of the reasons for this is that when using screens, our eyes are constantly having to refocus on the tiny pixels that make up elements such as text.

Who is most likely to report high levels of Zoom fatigue? ›

In a recent working paper, involving an online survey of more than 10,500 people, they reported that Zoom fatigue is real and that women are more susceptible to it than men, and they identified several factors that explained that difference.

Why do I feel exhausted after a meeting? ›

Our brains are tired and here's why

While interpreting in-person social cues drains little of our energy, searching for verbal cues in a zoom meeting requires much more concentration. As we strain to attend to each speaker, we are less likely to absorb information and have meaningful interactions.

Who is affected by Zoom fatigue? ›

They found that overall, one in seven women – 13.8 percent – compared with one in 20 men – 5.5 percent – reported feeling “very” to “extremely” fatigued after Zoom calls.

Why Zoom calls are so draining for introverts? ›

“A part of what makes you exhausted is that the natural cadence of conversation has changed. You don't have the usual cues, so you have to overcompensate for that.” “The social pressure of Zoom calls is real.” “As introverts, we need some time to decompress.

Why do virtual meetings feel so weird? ›

QUICK TAKE. Remote work is challenging because the nuances of nonverbal communication that are present in face-to-face conversations are not conveyed through virtual meetings.

Why are video calls so awkward? ›

We miss essential body-language cues

"When we are talking with each other in person, we pick up a variety of subtle cues that are often not perceptible via video. Minor adjustments in posture, soft sighs, minute changes in eye contact, and other subtle shifts are often imperceptible or missed during video meetings.

Can zoom cause seizures? ›

We enjoy them just as much as anybody, but it's best to steer clear of excessively-animated backgrounds or repeating patterns (even if the image itself is static)—after all, these can bring on migraine attacks or even seizures. Also, don't quickly cycle through backgrounds either if you can avoid it.

Why does zoom make my head hurt? ›

Zoom fatigue is a condition stemming from too much time spent on video conferencing without relief. It isn't natural to watch yourself on a screen along with multiple other people that may or may not be watching you.

How do you get rid of a screen headache? ›

The American Optometric Society recommends taking breaks during screen time sessions. Specifically, every 20 minutes take a 20 second break to look at an object or person that's 20 feet away. If you're looking at a screen for longer than two hours, consider resting your eyes for 15 minutes.

Can my boss make me turn my camera on? ›

Technically, there aren't laws prohibiting employers from asking employees to turn on their cameras. But employees legally don't have to comply with this request. An employer can't force you to do anything you are uncomfortable doing. However, if you choose to turn off your camera, you run the risk of termination.

Is it a law to have your camera on in Zoom? ›

Can employers do that? Can an employer force an employee to use a camera all the time for every single Zoom meeting? The simple answer is, unfortunately, yes (in most cases). Although it is ill sighted and non-inclusive, generally an employer can force an employee to always turn his camera on.

Why you should turn on your camera for Zoom? ›

When to turn your camera on or off Camera on if:
  • 1 You're the meeting facilitator. If you called the meeting, your camera should be on. ...
  • 2 It's your first time meeting the attendees. ...
  • 3 You want to show that you're paying attention. ...
  • 4 You're comfortable with your environment and yourself.
19 Apr 2022

Why Zoom calls are so draining for introverts? ›

“A part of what makes you exhausted is that the natural cadence of conversation has changed. You don't have the usual cues, so you have to overcompensate for that.” “The social pressure of Zoom calls is real.” “As introverts, we need some time to decompress.

Why do I feel like my energy is being drained? ›

Fatigue is a common symptom of many illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, anemia, thyroid disease, and sleep apnea. Talk to your doctor if you feel unusually tired. Many medications can contribute to fatigue. These include some blood pressure medicines, antihistamines, diuretics, and other drugs.

What causes fatigue? ›

Most of the time fatigue can be traced to one or more of your habits or routines, particularly lack of exercise. It's also commonly related to depression. On occasion, fatigue is a symptom of other underlying conditions that require medical treatment.

Why is speaking so exhausting? ›

The muscles around the ribs (intercostals) and abdomen expand and contract to provide breath for speaking. Loud or excessive talking may make these muscles tire. Some people then fall into the unhealthy habit of overusing muscles of the neck to “push” the voice.

How many hours of Zoom is too much? ›

However, both because of needing to leave adequate time to focus, as well as the realities of how much productive work can actually be accomplished in a day, we recommend no more than two to three hours each day spent in virtual (video) meetings, with at least a 15 minute break between each meeting.

What is Zoom burnout? ›

While working from home has long been a sought-after perk for some employees, a new reality of frequent online meetings and an inability to disconnect from the job has created a new stressor called “Zoom burnout.” Workplace burnout is nothing new, but this new digital version has its own idiosyncrasies.

Why are extroverts more likely to speak in a meeting than introverts? ›

Extroverts are more likely to say what they think and talk through their thought processes, while introverts take in the information and sort through it in their own heads.

How do you know you're mentally tired? ›

Mental exhaustion is a feeling of extreme tiredness, characterized by other feelings including apathy, cynicism, and irritability. You may be mentally exhausted if you've recently undergone long-term stress, find it hard to focus on tasks, or lack interest in activities you usually enjoy.

What does emotional burnout feel like? ›

Emotional exhaustion is one of the signs of burnout. People experiencing emotional exhaustion often feel like they have no power or control over what happens in life. They may feel “stuck” or “trapped” in a situation.

What drains your mental energy? ›

In addition to holding in feelings and avoiding confrontation, ruminating about negative experiences and thoughts can also drain emotional energy. Someone who thinks over and over about someone that hurt them or considers possible negative outcomes instead of focusing on positive things is harming their energy level.

Why do I have no energy or motivation? ›

The following factors can contribute to fatigue, either alone or in combination: Psychological and psychosocial – stress, anxiety, and depression. Physical – anemia, diabetes, glandular fever, and cancer. Physiological – pregnancy, breast-feeding, inadequate sleep, and excessive exercise.

Why am I tired no matter how much sleep I get? ›

One Reason Why You May Always Be Sleepy: Hypersomnia

If you're otherwise healthy, but are always sleepy no matter how much sleep you get, you may have Hypersomnia. In short, hypersomnia is a chronic neurological condition that makes you tired no matter how much sleep you get.

Why do I wake up tired everyday? ›

Sleep disorders — such as sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and restless leg syndrome — seem like the most obvious culprits. But other medical conditions can also disrupt sleep and cause chronic fatigue — from thyroid disorders and heart conditions to asthma and heartburn.

What is introvert burnout? ›

Social exhaustion can also be called introvert burnout or introvert hangover. Although it's not a medical diagnosis, it is a valid experience that introverts and extroverts can face. It can be an emotional and physical response to social overstimulation that leaves you feeling drained and exhausted.

Why do introverts get drained? ›

Introverts tend to draw energy from going inwards and being on our own whereas as extroverts tend to draw energy from things that are external to their mind. That is why overly stimulating environments can be energy draining for introverts, leaving us feeling tired, lacking in energy and even stressed.

Why is my social energy so low? ›

A small or short lasting social battery means that a person has less energy for socializing overall. It might be that they find socializing tiring, stressful, or overstimulating. As a small social battery drains quickly, these people need to recharge more often.


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