It’s interesting how quickly we can adjust to a new normal. Zoom, Houseparty, Hangouts, FaceTime, Teams – whatever your poison, at the start of the coronavirus lockdown in some parts of the world, five weeks ago, we all turned to video-calling platforms with the deluded wonder of a dog finding a stick in the woods: “Well, this is new and fun. I will never be bored or sad again.”
But like dogs and sticks, the novelty couldn’t last, and many of us now find ourselves coming down with “Zoomxhaustion” – which I don’t think is a medical term but I’m not about to confirm – and getting worse by the day.
Here are some warning signs...
Your social life is busier than ever
One of the most underrated aspects of “normal life” was being able to turn down social events whenever they sounded terrible: “Ah, sorry mate, I... er... I promised my father-in-law I’d paint his tool shed this weekend.”
In the era of Zoom, et al, that get-out-of-jail card has been taken out of circulation. You can’t say you’re going out; you can’t say you need a night in.
The only two legitimate excuses are that you already have another Zoom call at that time, or that you have coronavirus.
And so we must say yes, to everything, leaving us with busier social calendars during social distancing than we had before. Family catch-up on Monday. The same with school friends on Tuesday. A dinner party on Wednesday. Work karaoke Thursday... and then quizzes, quizzes, quizzes all weekend, baby. Except there’s one question nobody will be able to answer: why are we doing this?
Sneaky quiz cheats
Which brings us to cheats. A question is asked by the self-appointed quizmaster. Say, “What is the capital of Lithuania?” Most people make cartoon thinking faces – sucking on a pencil, scratching their heads – but a few seem to be fiddling with a second screen, off-screen.
You can’t voice your suspicions, but you know they’re at it, especially when they give their answer as, “Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania and its largest city, with a population of 580,020.”
Talking over one another
No, you go fi -
I was just going to s -
Maybe we should put our hands up, like in primary school.
Everyone can see your reactions
In a normal, face-to-face conversation between a large group, most people look at whoever is speaking. This allows us to react to things in relative privacy; roll your eyes and you’ll likely get away with it.
Not so on Zoom, where everybody is lined up like Blankety Blank panellists. There, your every reaction is being watched by an unknown number of people at any moment.
It might even be recorded. So you need to pay attention. At all times. Either that, or fix an expression on your face that works just as well for tragic news as it does for a witty anecdote. Tricky.
You have to watch people eat
Virtual dinner parties are fine, I suppose, because everybody is eating and so time spent watching others doing so is minimal.
But when somebody’s meal is ready halfway through a conversation, or a takeaway arrives, and you suddenly find yourself watching your uncle make his way through a chicken bhuna, on microphone? That is another thing entirely.
You cannot leave
Getting into a Zoom call is easy. Then the awkwardness sets in. And, um, how do you get out?
I am fortunate: my girlfriend and lockdown cellmate enjoys talking so much that on any call we make together I am able to slip away after about 47 seconds.
People think I’m filling my glass. But, I’ve just... left the call. And nobody notices, least of all her.
You might not be so fortunate, in which case the options are slim. You can make an excuse about dinner being ready, or having another call, or the cat catching fire.
Or remember we’re all in this together, and they’re probably all feeling the same. So just fake a power cut.
Expert advice to deal with the pandemic
- Quarantine workout: Home exercises to keep older people fit
- The 6 types of people we all need in our ‘corona bubble’
- How to fix back pain while working from home
- How to avoid coronavirus-linked weight gain
- In the wild world of coronavirus, it pays to be mindful
- Staying fit in the pandemic: Microbes in your gut will defend you, if you feed it right
- No gear, no motivation? How to spice up your quarantine workout