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Why You're Always So Freaking Exhausted After A Zoom Call

Sometimes, you just want to pretend your laptop's camera isn't working, right?
PHOTO: Unsplash/Chris Montgomery
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Your Internet is unstable. Your neighbor's dog won't stop barking. Your siblings decided it was the perfect time to have a fight. There are so many things to consider and too many complications that can arise when you're about to have a video meeting. And since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we know you've had *a lot* of on-cam conferences—way more than you anticipated even if you spend a lot of time in the digital space. 

ARE YOU STRESSED?

After seven months, despite it being the "new normal," video calls can be pretty draining. In fact, as early as April 2020, people found the perfect term for it: Zoom fatigue. Of course, this doesn't just apply to that specific platform; the exhaustion is relatable whether you use Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, etc. So why exactly are you tired after a video call?

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You're hyperaware. 

Let's face it: People have had plenty of embarrassing moments during these calls, and you're probably worried that you could be next. Even if people have been more understanding these days and can probably laugh it off, it's still stressful to think that someone might unexpectedly appear behind you without warning...right when you're in the middle of an important presentation. 

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Social cues are limited. 

As humans, we communicate even when we aren't speaking. Some people use their hands a lot when they want to get a point across. When someone is turned away from you and arranging their things, there's a good chance you don't have their full attention. These are things you'd pick up on even when they don't explicitly say it. In a video call, however, the camera might be angled in such a way that hides everything from the shoulders down, making it harder for people to "read" you while you're trying to have a conversation. This can be stressful for people because your brain would have to work harder to take the information in. 

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There are too many things going on. 

When you're in a meeting with a lot of people and everyone's required to turn the camera on, your brain is scrambling to take it all in. It's natural for you to scan all the screens that pop up, and even without meaning to, you process all the information you see: that one woman's huge plant, that painting on your co-worker's wall, or even your boss' pet cat that's currently napping by the window behind her. It's sort of like being forced to multitask. And when you realize that you aren't actually able to focus on the presentation or the speaker, it becomes even more stressful because then you have to worry about catching up. 

You don't get a break. 

In real life, even when you're paying attention in a meeting, you don't exactly make eye contact or stare at your colleague's face the entire time. Sometimes, you're taking down notes, or glancing out the window, or even getting up to get some water across the room. In a video call, the only way to "show" that you're paying attention is by looking at the camera. Even glancing down for too long can make it seem like you're bored (when in reality, you may just want to rest your eyes). 

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ARE YOU STRESSED?

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