Zoom Fatigue

Curator's Note

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the landscape of our daily lives. Instead of driving to work/school, people were required to stay at home, turn on their computer/phone, and log in to Zoom. This inevitably created the term “Zoom fatigue,” which is related to tiredness/exhaustion from being on Zoom. Zoom fatigue is a real and common issue for most people. 

The first possible cause for “Zoom fatigue” is eye gaze at a close distance. This can be simplified into two components: the face size on the screen and the amount of time someone is seeing another person’s face from the front-on view. For the first component, we are close to other participant’s faces because we need to be near our computer or phone to see what’s being presented. This close distance violates a nonverbal norm that causes discomfort that is prolonged for the duration of the meeting. 

The second possible cause is cognitive load. In face-to-face interactions, nonverbal communication is always in synchrony; however, people need to work harder to send nonverbal cues over Zoom. Some examples are exaggerated nods and looking directly at the camera instead of the computer screen to show maintained eye contact with the speaker.  

The third potential cause is reduced mobility. Because most Zoom meetings take place over the computer, participants are forced to sit down or restrict their movement so they can listen and see the material being presented. Aside from walking, increased hand gestures contribute to learning retention too. Even though Zoom participants are not refrained from using hand gestures, being restricted to sit in front of their computer for the duration of the meeting can decrease movement. 

Learning about the different ways in which Zoom fatigue is caused is important because Zoom is used quite frequently to communicate with others. In addition, because the future is unknown and many analysts are arguing that Zoom use will be the “new normal” for a while, it is critical for our comprehension and appreciation of this new form of communication.  

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