It has happened to all of us. You finish the meeting and, after saying goodbye to your colleagues, you lower the screen of the laptop and you take off your glasses tired. Your eyes, neck and back ache and you feel as if your energy has been squeezed out. It is normal. It is something that a psychological study from the University of Stanford has described as the ‘Zoom fatigue‘. And it gives tools to avoid being so exhausted.
In just one year the videoconferences they have become part of our daily lives. The restrictions imposed by the pandemic of the Covid have promoted teleworking with meetings by video call and applications that solve that need. It is the case of the American Zoom, which in 12 months has shot up its annual profits by 369% to 2,560 million dollars. In 2020 it accumulated 477 million downloads, being the fifth most popular app in the world. And he hopes that this 2021 his income will grow again by 43%.
In our life, this data has been transformed into almost daily meetings and accentuated digital boredom. How do videoconferencing stress us out? The doctor of cognitive psychology and director of the Human Interaction Laboratory at Stanford University, Jeremy Bailensonhas carried out one of the first theoretical studies on the case that allow us to begin to resolve some doubts.
Direct gaze and constant exposure
The analysis, published on February 23, points to four factors that explain this fatigue. The first is due to “excessive and intense” eye contact, the obligation to look at our interlocutors. Several studies indicate that in moments of physical proximity with strangers, such as in an elevator, we tend to look away. “In ‘Zoom’ the behavior reserved for close relationships such as long periods of direct eye gaze has become the way we interact,” says Bailenson. Thus, he points out that while in physical meetings we may not stare at the person speaking in digital meetings, we feel forced to do so.
The second factor points to the fact that video calls also constantly expose our own image both to the scrutiny of others and to our own. self appraisal, something that other studies have already proven that causes us stress. “Imagine that during an 8-hour workday an assistant follows you with a hand mirror that reflects your face. This sounds ridiculous, but it is essentially what happens in Zoom calls,” he explains.
The third factor is that, in this digital environment, humans spend more energy identifying social signals about the behavior of our interlocutors that we intuitively capture in person. This is mainly due to nonverbal language, more difficult to capture behind the screen. In addition, in video calls we speak 15% louder than in normal conversations and we tend to gesture more exaggeratedly so that others pick up on our signals.
The fourth and final factor is the limited mobility of the participants in the video conference, who are ‘trapped’ at their desks so that their face fits into the call. Movement in meetings accelerates creativity, which can be detrimental to restricting it.