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With increased screen time, there has emerged a whole new kind of dis-ease called the ‘zoom fatigue’. It refers to the exhaustion one feels after having attended online classes and meetings and has been named after the widely used video-call platform Zoom. Professor Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab published a paper in the journal Technology, Mind and Behavior on the same.

According to the study, there exist four primary reasons why video chats fatigue humans:

  1. Excessive amounts of close-up eye contact are highly intense”: Increased eye contact tends to be intimidating for most people, and with online meetings the number of faces perceived to be staring at you drastically increases. Secondly, depending on the screen size, the faces of people on call are either enlarged or minimized to a degree that humans are not naturally accustomed to. When (Virtual)faces of other humans very close to our own face, our brains interpret it as an intense situation. This leads to us constantly being in a hyper-aroused state.
  2. Seeing yourself during video chats constantly is fatiguing”: It’s as though a mirror came along with you in real life, following you everywhere you go. Professor Bailenson says that constantly seeing one’s face can be stressful as studies show that we are more critical of ourselves when we see our reflections.
  3. Video chats dramatically reduce our usual mobility”: Research shows movement aids cognitive performance, and this is definitely lacking with the online-medium.
  4. The cognitive load is much higher in video chats.”: As in-person communication is missing; more efforts need to be put in order to receive non-verbal signals. They could also be misinterpreted depending on the screen and placement orientation of both the doer and the receiver.

And what’s the solution for these then?

  1. Make necessary changes on the screen layout to reduce the size of people’s faces.
  2. Using the ‘hide self-view’ button to minimise seeing yourself on the screen.
  3. Place the screen further away to make the meeting seem more real-life and take breaks from being seated in one position/place.
  4. Take audio-only breaks, and take yours eye off the screen when required.

And so, while times demand that we stay online, and on the screen for more hours, we need to be aware of what is happening with ourselves and the possible solutions of the problems we face given the shift to the online medium.



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