MILES TO GO: THE NEW WORLD ZOOM — LOOK AT YOURSELF
Do you remember conference calls? Audio-only phone calls that connected multiple users? (wistful sigh)
I miss those.
But I understand. And I applaud the recent advancements in telecommunications that have changed the world since the onset of the COVID pandemic around March 2020. I would also venture to assume that the proliferation of videoconferencing, given its impact on workplace flexibility and e-learning, is among the most important and enduring commodities of the pandemic.
Sure, we’ve had FaceTime and Skype for a while, but not as part of our daily routines. These were reserved for special occasions, calls with grandparents, and other, shall we say, visually important communications.
But now we have a multitude of commonly used platforms. I’ll call them, collectively, Zoogleams (Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams). The bigwigs have built a better mousetrap – several, in fact. And separately, of course. Competitively.
Our digital calendars and inboxes are filled with meeting invitations and links. Every child in the country, for over a year, has used a classroom version for online learning.
They’ve pushed regular audio phone calls further into the recesses of our less-used phone apps. In fact, our columnist Mark Hedden recently apologized for calling me on the phone instead of texting or emailing me like he usually does. “Sorry to have you answering — and speaking — an actual phone call,” Hedden said. “I know how intrusive it seems these days.”
So strange, but true, we agreed. It’s weird. We carry our phones everywhere, we can’t live without them. But we so rarely use them as a real phone. I even got one of those fancy new Samsung Flip phones, mostly because I was tired of accidentally answering a call that I’d ignored by taking the phone out of my purse, only touching the edges.
I get the lure of video calling for business owners and bosses. They demand professionalism and responsibility. Moreover, they are scheduled in advance. They kind of have to be. You can’t — or shouldn’t — join a Zoom call while getting dressed, putting on makeup, feeding the chat, or doing anything unrelated to the topic. Well, you can, but it requires turning off your camera, which sends everyone on the call jumping to conclusions about what you’re secretly doing. Insert your own CNN joke here.
Video calls, once relegated to the space age and cartoon world of the Jetsons – with their domestic robots, flying cars and jet packs – are now as much a part of our lives as text messaging and camera phones. .
While I can’t argue with the benefits of video conferencing, I can lament the passage of more comfortably anonymous audio calls in which appearance was not a factor. (It’s not that I ever did anything inappropriate in a place I wasn’t supposed to be, boss.)
Also consider your typical Zoogleams experience. Where do you find yourself looking the most? To yourself, of course. Just as we instantly look at ourselves in any still photo (and consider any photo in which we look good as a “great photo”), we also spend the majority of a video call evaluating our own hair, makeup, facial expressions and posture. It’s true, admit it.
We also need to master eye contact during a video call. We must remember to look at our camera lens, not the images on our screen. But of course that would force us to stop looking at ourselves.
But now that we’ve mastered Jetsons-style video calling, can we please make their jet packs our next priority?