For this week, we’re asked to think more critically on the effect Zoom has on the immediate level and the kinds of ramifications it can have long-term for everyday life. To facilitate thoughts and discussion, I’ve read The Zoom Gaze by Autumm Caines and Why We’re Exhausted by Zoom by Susan D. Blum. To put it bluntly, I’m tired. Not out of boredom, but of direct points made by both authors.
We cannot deny the effect Zoom has had in everyday life. It has been an alternative method for us to connect with people that we’ve need. It has been a powerful substitute for classrooms all around and it allows us to stay safe amidst a pandemic. We have to at least give it props for that. I’ve had my fair share of using it for classrooms, hangouts, family and work. Being honest, this is the first time I’ve had to use this much technology and I can say I’m not built for something like this. I find myself collapsing every afternoon because I can’t stand it. It effectively affects my engagement with people in class/work and has diminished my overall energy. In fact, I haven’t made an art piece in so long because part of what I do for printing is creating digital stencils, and I never have the time, patience or energy to boot up my software and start. I feel powerless because of it.
But why is it that way? One point I found interesting was the need to auto-correct and micromanage every part of ourselves when we chat. I see myself doing that quite often and it does get distracting. It isn’t something I would have noticed beforehand but now I catch myself fiddling myself at every minute and looking attentive. I turn off the lights because I want nothing around me to create any sort of false narrative to anyone, but I end up turning off my camera more often to prevent this. But then I feel I’m disconnected overall and I have to decide if I want to ‘hide’ and participate better, or show myself and fixate on what ‘false self’ I want to share. I think back to the Hawthorne Effect, in which humans modify themselves on the fly once they are aware of being watched. I’ll post a link here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawthorne_effect
Another fascinating point made was hierarchy. It is true that one speaker acts as the host and facilitates whatever goes on in the session, but there is an incredible amount of power bestowed upon them that isn’t often evident in real-life engagement. The ability to mute all at once is a powerful tool to keep people organized, but I’m sure some have used it to assert their dominant status in conversation. Even the notion of private chats in the chat log shows how bizarre all this is. I know we had passing notes in class before, but that came with the risk of performing espionage to ensure our messages came through. Here we can just strike up whatever chat we want without anyone being the wiser. It creates a dissonance and doesn’t help unify a group.
I’m hoping all this is temporary, I cannot imagine this being the new norm now. I feel like I’m slacking as a student because of it, and it directly affects my livelihood to the point where I’m often battling foreclosure and debt. I haven’t created anything and as a creator who needs this medium to express it feels painful for me. If this is just me, I cannot imagine the sort of exhaustion everyone else is feeling and it further illustrates the need to find something to remedy all this. I doubt a reasonable solution can come from this, Zoom is very convenient right now for a lot of situations so it feels like we just have to make do. I usually don’t get this expressive but I’m starting to resonate even more with what we are reading and it is sad to see what is going on with the health of everyone.