Zoom Fatigue? The Skype Sweats? Virtual writing conference stressing you out?
Video chats have been a blessing the last year or so, but I’m sure you’ve also noticed how much you also fricken’ HATE them. And way more than you should, because it’s just a video chat.
I’ve been video chatting daily for over ten years
My wife and I have been using Zoom, Skype, and other video messaging apps, for well over ten years now.
In fact, the first few years of our relationship were very long-distance, via Skype.
You think your Zoom meetings are long? Sometimes we’d turn on Skype and leave it on all day long.
Because we were so familiar, it’s no surprise that we also started coaching people long-distance using these tools, so we’ve had a long time to get used to it.
Over time we figured out how to use it in a way that doesn’t cause us as many problems.
The Skype Sweats
Sounds gross, right?
The Skype Sweats are what we call it when our nervous systems get ‘activated’ by a coaching call that uses video. Skype itself is not required; any video chat can do this to you.
You hang up the call, take an aimless, nervous walk, your mouth is dry, you might be starving, and when you lift up your arms, gross, you’ve got sweat rings like it’s nobody’s business!
Hopped up, nervous, and sweatier than you’d expect from an activity that’s literally just sitting there talking? Those are the Skype Sweats.
Talking to our fellow coaches and teachers, we’ve found that it’s pretty common.
And since the pandemic started, we’ve all been Zooming more and more. That means the Skype Sweats are also more and more common.
Many of my friends have started to complain about how much they hate Zoom and Skype, and with far more hatred than should be caused by the tools, themselves.
Seeing someone on-screen shouldn’t be stressful, nor should them seeing you.
What is Zoom Fatigue?
Zoom Fatigue is another, related issue, and its causes are the same as the Skype Sweats. At the end of the day, after a few Zoom calls, you’re so much more tired than you ever were working and meeting in person. Zoom Fatigue.
Zoom Fatigue and Skype Sweats are real things, but don’t ask your doctor; They are symptoms of how we work, and brought on by the technology we’re using today.
“I’m not crazy, my mother had me tested.” – Sheldon Cooper
Psychological stuff doesn’t mean you’re crazy.
This is just the stuff that you don’t know is a problem, because it gets to you on a subconscious level.
The causes vary, and how much they affect you depends on your video setup (and that of others on the call) and how much you Zoom.
Problem #1 – Lack of eye contact
Where is your camera? It’s certainly not where the eyes of your Zoom friend are.
It might seem trivial, but when you look at their eyes, you’re looking down and away from the camera. To them, you’re not making eye contact, even though from your side, you are. And when they look at you, it seems like they’re looking down your neck!
It gets worse if they have a camera in a weird place or put their laptop on their laps, too.
Solution – Look at your camera, not at the person talking
There’s not much you can do about where others look, but the more comfortable you can make them, the more it helps you, too. The fewer people on edge, the better.
When you’re talking, look into the camera. Also look at the camera when you’re paying attention to someone else who’s talking.
Turn off Gallery View so you’re using Speaker View. That way you’re at least looking at the center of the screen.
It also helps to take group camera breaks, especially if the call is long. Note that if your cameras are off, you don’t have to look, because no one knows where anyone is looking. It’s like an old-fashioned conference call!
Problem #2 – Too much eye contact
When you meet someone in person (remember being in person?) you rarely just look at them the whole time. You look around, at others, and even stare into space.
This is normal in real life, but over Zoom it feels rude. So, you end up staring and being stared at the whole time. You can’t even scratch your nose and neither can they.
Solution – If it’s allowed, turn off your cameras
At least periodically. Like the tip above, if you’re leading the meeting, allow and encourage this.
One good way to do this is to start the meeting with camera on, then as you get into things allow them to be turned off. When it’s time to regroup, turn them back on.
Seeing others is a great thing, but it’s not necessary to see or be seen the whole time.
Problem #3 – Those disembodied voices
Our voices are almost never in sync with our video, and it wears on us. It’s subtle, but it’s there.
Also, when we’re on a big call with more than five or six people, sometimes you can’t tell who’s talking. Your eyes dart around looking for who’s not muted.
Whose little lips are moving?
Who said that?
And if their camera is off, they might not even show in the Zoom Gallery!
Our brains can’t take this for long.
Solution – Again with cameras off
I sound like a broken record, but it’s the disconnect between what you see and what you hear that’s causing this problem.
You might not be able to turn off the camera on a work call, but you can on many other calls. If you’re on a webinar, a write-in, or in an author group, it’s probably ok.
This stuff all adds up, so if you have a few hours of calls in the day, how many of them can you setup for your success (and health)?
By the way, if you’re in a position to lead calls, talk about this stuff with the others. Create a list of tips, or just send this blog post to them.
Problem #4 – Looking at yourself
Narcissist much? 😏
I kid, but in the past, we’d almost never look at ourselves after we got dressed in the morning. But today, with video calls, our own faces are almost always right there with all the other faces.
It might not feel weird to you on a conscious level, but our subconscious definitely says it’s weird. Very weird.
Solution – Turn off your self-view
No, not your camera, but the view of yourself on your own screen.
In Zoom, you click on the little drop down on your own video, and click ‘hide self-view.’
While you’re there, set it to “Speaker View” so you don’t see all the other faces at once.
Look, it’s like you’re talking to one person at a time, just like nature intended.
Control what you can and minimize rest
You might not be able to change everything about your Zoom or Skype calls, but everything you can do helps.
Remember, if you’re in a position to lead the calls, talk about this stuff with the others so you can all be saner together.
I hope this helps make Zoom a little easier on your and your mental health.
After making some simple changes to how you Zoom, you’ll start to feel better, stress less, and even look forward to that upcoming virtual writers’ conference!
Maybe you won’t even hate it anymore!
Links and resources
Plausible deniability of each other’s absence – Twitter conversation
Take your Zoom to the next level with Seth Godin
Roland has been helping authors just like himself be more productive and write more books, all while staying healthy, happy, and sane since 2015.
Read his story right here, and if you want to send him a message, visit Roland's contact page here.