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ZOOM & Gloom: Got A Zoomache?

–Socially Nourished but Doggone Tired

Zoomaholics Beware

Zoomache: zoom·ache | \zoohmm-āk weariness, fatigue, stress, and/or exhaustion from never-ending Zoom calls with family, friends, business colleagues causing a state of exhaustion or attitude of indifference or apathy brought on by overexposure to videoconferencing.

These days, thanks to Zoom, people are having happy hours with college friends, cooking Saturday dinner with formerly-distant relatives,  taking morning walks with a friend in Paris, and talking about books with the neighborhood groups. With our days now bleeding into each other with a “Groundhog Day” —like fluidity, work is home and home is school and school is yoga class and yoga class is therapy and therapy is somebody’s birthday party and somebody’s birthday party is work.

In the midst of pandemic stress and social distancing, we could not possibly be more nourished with companionship. And yet we’re stressed out and exhausted?

Keep in mind that at this point our brains are associating our homes more than ever with work. Your home has become just overwhelmingly work now. That line between home and work is completely gone for many. It may be time to find a way to reestablish that boundary between the two by finding a different place in the home for each, separating work-induced fatigue with home-induced relaxation. More on the notion of Zoom fatigue from Zubin Damania, MD ⤵︎

Quoting from Gianpiero Petriglier, Associate Professor at Insead, within a recent BBC Article “The reason Zoom calls drain your energy”;

“Video chats mean we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and body language; paying more attention to these consumes a lot of energy. Our minds are together when our bodies feel we’re not. That dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting. Most of our social roles happen in different places, but now the context has collapsed. Imagine if you go to a bar, and in the same bar you talk with your professors, meet your parents or date someone, isn’t it weird? That’s what we’re doing now… We are confined in our own space, in the context of a very anxiety-provoking crisis, and our only space for interaction is a computer window.”

And then there’s this from Shareen Pathak over at Digiday;

“Zoom isn’t a replacement for real-life interactions. Every verbal tic, every slight eyebrow raise, and every other non-verbal reaction signs are overblown when you’re all gazing into your screen, populated by multiple giant heads”

Finally, Suzanne Degges-White, Ph.D., writing for Psychology Today voiced her concerns about Zoom fatigue;

“Not only does Zoom zap our energy and our brains, but it also beats down our bodies. From a numb butt to an aching back to a dull, throbbing headache and eye strain, hours spent in one position at furniture never designed for long-term sitting can leave us feeling cranky, achy, and a lot worse about life than if we had a breakroom to roam over to visit, face-to-face chats and gossips with coworkers, and an evening commute during which we could decompress and shed our work identities as we morphed into our social and relational identities.”

How Do You Cure a Zoomache?

Take two aspirins and Zoom me in the morning? Perhaps not. While Zooming may be the “new norm” for a while, here’s a novel idea;  What if we harkened back to the good-old-days of picking up the phone? Casting all those “stressors” aside, at least then you would be free to chat with folks “as you are” and with the bonus freedom to walk around, lay on the sofa, or perhaps wander outside for some fresh air. Sounds like “just what the doctor ordered”, doesn’t it?

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Dennis Pitocco
Dennis Pitoccohttps://www.bizcatalyst360.com/
DENNIS is the Founder & Chief ReImaginator of 360° Nation, encompassing a wide range of multimedia enterprises, including BizCatalyst 360° —the award-winning global media digest; 360° Nation Studios —dedicated to reaching across the world in an effort to capture, produce, and deliver positive, uplifting messages via blockbuster global events, and; GoodWorks 360° —a pro-bono consulting foundation focused entirely on providing mission-critical advisory services to nonprofits worldwide. Collaborating with his Chief Inspiration Officer (and wife), Ali, everything they do is "for-good" vs. "for-profit". Their mission over the past decade-plus has been to rediscover humanity at its best, influencing and showcasing it every step of the way. Together, they do their very best to figure out what the world is trying to be —then using all their resources to help it to be better every day in every way. They understand and embrace the notion that it’s not about me or you; it’s about caring for the people we serve and more responsibly stewarding the precious resources in our care. And they believe it’s about showing up, being present, and intentionally giving our invaluable gifts of time, talent, and treasure "for good". Dennis is a contributing author to the Best-Selling Books ♦ Chaos to Clarity: Sacred Stories of Transformational ChangeJourney Well, You Are More Than EnoughThe Four-Fold Formula For All Things Wellness: True Stories of the Heart, Spirit, Mind, and Body.

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22 CONVERSATIONS

  1. I definitely have a love-hate relationship with Zoom. For me it’s been all about boundaries. Boundaries about how much media I consume, boundaries around the calls I accept to take, boundaries around everything. I find I have to get over FOMO and listen to my heart. Thanks, Dennis!

    • You nailed it with the word “Boundaries” when it comes to Zoom– and of course all of social media, my friend. We love the platform but do our best to strike the right balance for everyone’s good.

  2. Dennis: As I was reading your piece, I thought, “OK, I’m going to be the outlier here because I’ve NOT experienced zoom fatigue – in fact I’ve been energized by the platform.”

    I had a client meeting recently with someone who turned off their camera – “Oh, my hair is a mess” – and the ensuing conversation was tough for me. I’m so used to seeing facial expressions and body language – and in the coaching business, doing so is essential. But there I was looking / listening at a black screen, trying to remain engaged.

    But it’s not just client or business meetings. Zoom and other platforms have given us the gift of virtually sitting next to family members and friends. Could you imagine the recent #HumansFirst rally if we couldn’t see Heather’s and Kimberly’s authentic emotions? If we couldn’t see you as you related your story about your pilgrimage? I saw the pain you were reliving and your epiphany.

    So, I’m with Darlene: “I embrace these new venues for communication.”

    • To be sure, Jeff – we advocate and embrace Zoom, Facetime, etc. The point of the article was to identify the challenges of this medium when not embraced without balance, as far too many people now feel a tendency to treat video as the default for all communication, which tends to ramp up the “fatigue” issue. To your point, “face time” is priceless in so many situations and indeed, for the Rally, our Friendship Bench, etc. Simply a matter of balance. Appreciate your perspectives shared here…

  3. Hi Dennis,

    Thank you for this! Yes, I am busier than ever between Teletherapy with FaceTime, Skype and WhatsApp, and Zoom for Webinars, Speakers’ meetings, etc. Yes, all of it is most fatiguing. In fact, you may have seen the article in the WSJ last week talking about this.

    As much as it is exhausting, however, I embrace these new venues for communication. As I shared with you, and it is now out, I am leaving my Needham practice in mid June. Most of my clients are staying with me because of Teletherapy. I respectfully disagree with those about not reading cues with the exception of a few interruptions. I can see their faces and read their facial expressions. I actually offered a virtual tissue and send virtual hugs and kisses. As my clients said, they will miss the real human hug, but they will receive it from me when they occasionally visit me in my home office in Central MA. Because of this, I feel blessed and will take the fatigue.💖

    • Great insights here, Darlene. You demonstrated the ability and willingness to take full advantage of the new tech for the good of your practice and the well-being of your clients. A great example of finding the right balance with the right choices. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Thanks for the uplift. You got that right, Dennis!

    We’re actually doing pretty well here. I find myself occasionally channeling an angry guy and have to apologize and take a break – we’re all under a large cloud (or several) that peek out sometimes.

    We recently said farewell to our wonderful dog and are looking into a new four-legged roommate.

    Our salvation right now is gratitude. For everything. This timeout is in many ways horrible and scary, yet it gives us a chance to take stock and re-align our focus away from getting things and more toward being. And about Zoom etc. – Can you imagine how this would be without social media?
    So I recommend being thankful for spoons and forks, your shower, comfortable socks, finding your glasses, and listening more than talking.
    Let fun have you,
    Mac

    • Thank you, Melissa. We look forward to the level of clarity your ‘Neuro Nugget” will bring to this burgeoning issue, as our sense is that it’s “real”… And as we’ve been too busy on Zoom calls to copyright “Zoomache”, you are free to use it 🙂

  5. Oh this early morning read was stretched out for me… I like to listen to the videos too.
    I’m able to resonate with many of these thoughts here and wonder how others think as well.
    I really like the bar analogy.. I had to laugh as I instantly imagined my family, colleagues, and potential dates, doctors.. etc all in one room…lol. And then I thought well if I’m ne across the board..I’m ok with me… but there are those things that just don’t mix well. It is stressful and like anything else we need to pull up a chair in our brain and calculate what works! Thank you for this inspiring and thought provoking as well as comforting article Dennis!

  6. Zoom reminds me of the old fashioned telephone “party line” when you just knew that your nosy neighbors would surreptitiously listen in to your chat. In this case, everyone listens in (the invited) and so honest conversations may be somewhat “muted” in order to avoid conflicts. Topical talks on the surface can never go to personal depths of genuine discussions and discourse and healthy debates. Maybe it is just enough to connect and know that the other parties are well? Amen!

    • Good points, Danny. I suppose the depth of the online discussions and candor is a matter of the nature of the group, the moderator, and setting a foundation for trust and authenticity.

  7. Thanks, Dennis for this great walkthrough of a new norm! I am not much into the zoom thing unless I have too or it’s just to catch up on what’s important and that means family, or in today’s case for me, an interview to participate in St Ignatius of Loyola Exercises for spiritual growth, ( a choice of taking part or not). I can see certain technology removing the personal side of things. While some technology is important, necessary, fun, and educational, I never want to forget the simple things that keep people connected. Maybe I am the generation moving into the last phase of life holding onto what use to wholesome before it is all gone.

  8. “…at this point our brains are associating our homes more than ever with work. ”

    This is something I’ve been noodling on and talking about for a hot second now. We need, more than ever before, to pause and think about boundaries. It’s worth the effort.

    I appreciate the connection that technology provides, but I agree, as with anything there are many facets to this situation, too, and it’s not all laughter and feel-good (and that’s coming from a positivity activist! lol)

    • You mentioned that magic word, Sarah; “boundaries” –which at face-value (no pun intended) seems to be a natural solution to videoconferencing overload. Thanks for sharing your perspectives!

  9. First of all, Dennis, it’s clear that I haven’t even had my coffee yet: I couldn’t figure out what Zoomache was! I read it as Zoo mache. Yup, seriously. Too much Zoom? 🙂

    Second, while I know that many folks are using it way more than I have recently, I am still grateful for the ability to see folks while we talk. I have been a part of several meetings, which are not ideal but still remind us of our connectedness in the group, but my favorite way to use Zoom is a one-to-one conversation with a friend.

    I just also learned from Cordelia’s comment about the ability to keep it on a speaker view, which I hadn’t known about. That will make a lot of meetings much easier!

    Happy Zooming!

    • As our resident “Cruciverbalist”, we knew you would appreciate how conveniently we added a new word to the dictionary, Susan. Thanks for your additional perspectives, as we certainly share your appreciation for videoconferencing for all the right reasons. Our “zoomache” perspective is a reflection of discussions with so many folks who are clearly in a Zoom “overload” mode, hence; the fatigue and all else. A bit of self-control and time-management may be the natural solution ahead of a potential Zoomache. 🙂

  10. Dennis you present some great insights here. However, as someone who has been an online entrepreneur for five years with a home office while homeschooling my children, I have solutions to all the issues presented.

    1- I have always had a standing desk and alternate with a balance ball when I need to stretch or rest.
    2- At the end of every hour, I do some form of exercise or quick fun decompressing activity with my children.
    3- I maintain meal times with strict rules on no devices at the table, eyes on each other or your plate and chewing contest.
    4- During zoom meetings, I keep it on speaker view so that I only watch the face of the person speaking.
    5- I energy clear between meetings. See #2

    Try one or all of these to combat zoomache:)

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