“C’mon and zoom, c’mon and zoom, c’mon and zoom-a zoom-a zoom-a zoom” sang the children, who had largely created each show themselves, to my children, watching raptly on PBS. That song etched itself into my brain almost as deeply as Barney’s “I love you, you love me.” I thought I’d left that song behind once they graduated to Spongebob Squarepants and Family Guy, but of late Zoom’s theme song has firmly insinuated itself again.
Because, confined largely to our homes as we are, everyone wants to zoom-a zoom-a zoom again. For meetings, for virtual cocktail hours, to check in with friends and family. This distresses me as much as the earworm itself. I don’t like talking on the phone very much. I don’t do it often. I prefer texting or tete-a-tetes, and so this trend makes me uncomfortable for many reasons.
* I am not wild about how I look in the best of circumstances, but Zoom seems, like bathing suit fitting room mirrors, to just magnify and reconfirm every flaw. But in the privacy of those dismally lit torture chambers, only I lament my shortcomings. On Zoom, each of the multitude of participants can see that my forehead is so large that aliens from galaxies away might mistake it for a planet. Others might calculate just how long we’ve been in lockdown by the length of my greying roots. Do I have to put make up on? Wear a bra? Inquiring minds probably don’t want to know.
*Technology and I have a love/hate relationship, and apparently so, too, do many Zoom participants. I make small sacrifices to the gods of telecommunications prior to each connection and thank them appropriately after. Anyone who thinks “Zoom is so easy!” might have watched one woman’s agony on a recent call as she pled with her teen to “make the audio work.” We could all hear her.
* Awkward! I never get the angle right. Do people want to see the Shakespeare shrine behind me? (Don’t even get me started on the clever backgrounds people have managed to procure and display – see bullet point below). Why are my glasses glaring? (although – reread the first bullet point; this might be a good thing as it obscures my lack of makeup). Whose turn is it to talk? We mute ourselves, and then raise our hands like we did in third grade, waiting for recognition. Do I have to raise my hand to go to the restroom, too, as I did back then? Participants sometimes forget to mute themselves and then we have the inevitable talk-over, and subsequent “No you go ahead, No you, No I insist”.
* I’m too easily distracted. I want to see what books sit on everyone’s bookshelves. I admire some decorating choices, cringe at others. I want to know what the kids and pets in the background are doing. And the ubiquitous generated backgrounds, intended certainly to minimize distractions… or hide haunches of meat hanging to age on hooks behind you… confound me even more. I mean, I know Jane is not in the south of France. Nor is John lolling below a blossoming dogwood. I can see the messy rooms they attempt to hide reflected in their glasses, and must strain even harder to see them now, and every time Jane or John moves in a certain way, their webcam completely amputates various parts of their visage until they move back into just the right camera angle. These temporary lopping off of body parts quite discomfit me.
* General meeting etiquette – I dislike meetings in general, because they often take up time better spent doing what we all sit down to discuss. I concede they are necessary and important at times but are sometimes hijacked by participants usurping the floor and simply speaking too long. This tends to happen even more on Zoom, perhaps because participants cannot read subtle – or not so subtle – body language signaling time to move on. Certainly, they are more efficient thanks to the conservation of efforts to get together in person, but they lose a bit of their edge with this proclivity to run on… And while I certainly have not gotten dolled up for any of my meetings, I do put more effort than I would on a strictly lockdown day for the occasion. I figure I should look like I might if I were to actually attend the meeting – at least from the waist up. Apparently not all participants feel that way, and while I get that we are all letting beauty and style routines slacken during this unprecedented time, come on, folks, make a minimal effort. Just run your fingers through the bedhead...pick a clean sweatshirt...wipe that peanut butter and jelly off your face. OK, now I just sound like the annoying mother that I am. I’ll stop.
Just as I hope this need to constantly show my face at an awkward angle online will soon. Just as I hope this whole pandemic will soon. I hope the only zooming I’ll be doing in the nearer rather than distant future is from one in person event to another.