The Dis-ease of Zoom Chats

If you hate water cooler chats in the office, you probably hate the seemingly obligatory social chats on Zoom.

Maybe they are even worse for you: the camera on your laptop sits too close and distorts your facial features, or you’re holding your phone in a force position to look as good as your best Insta selfie—only that’s pretty impossible when you’re talking and there’s life going on in the background at home, and this Coronavirus stuff has us all on edge when we’re working on cutting our own hair, shopping for comfort clothing online and hate sending things back, and wearing those uncomfortable masks that leave marks on our faces.

All this concern about our appearance, and for what?

To look appropriate. Whatever that means. To conform and not stick out. To hide either the mess behind us, or something that will indicate we don’t really fit in with the rest of the group. At least, not the way we see everyone else showing up. And one or two are, in our minds, brave enough not even to turn the camera on, despite the cheery instructions to “be on camera, because it improves communication”.

Communication, though may mean exposure, and exposure is dangerous.

It’s one thing to have imposter syndrome. It’s another to be concerned that to be known for who you are beyond the particular skills makes you vulnerable. Vulnerable risks include feeling vulnerable to attacks of sexism, racism, homo and transphobia. You may be worried that you’re going to be judge morally, from those who seem to hold themselves as religious and politically superior—(do I even need to explain that, right now?)

So let’s flip that coin, and put you in control of the situation.

Your Zoom territory is yours. Own it as you like. Swap the built in camera for a cheap one you can plug in and put on a tripod, find the right light, distance, height to get yourself in a flattering position, if you must be on camera.

Study other people’s faces when you’re on that Zoom call, instead of treating it like a mirror, which is what we are all drawn to do.

Play soft music in the background for yourself, music you like, that can’t be heard by others, so you feel less like your space is invaded by others.

And know that, while this may become the norm for many, and may become the default way to work, you still have the right to not surrender your need for privacy or space. You’ll just have to carve it out in a different way.