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‘Zoom fatigue’: As coined by Jeremy Bailenson of Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab

If you weren’t already a little wary of anyone working with Artificial Intelligence, pushing crypto-currencies, calling themselves a ‘disruptor’, then how are you left feeling about this chap’s organisation? It’s not as scary as you might fear. As per their website ‘Our Mission…since its founding in 2003, researchers at VHIL have sought to better understand the psychological and behavioral effects of Virtual Reality (VR)’. Bailenson is their Founding Director and Thomas More Storke Professor of Communication.

I learned about him via a Financial Times article written by Tim Bradshaw a few weeks ago. As a Social Psychology graduate from the London School of Economics, this sort of thing interests me. Also I was finding the few video meetings I do a bit stressful, and was thinking there was probably more to this stuff than meets the eye.

The professor agrees: the underlying causes of Zoom fatigue include ‘’excessive amounts of close-up eye gaze…and increased self-evaluation from staring at a video of oneself. Zoom users are seeing reflections of themselves at a frequency and duration that hasn’t been seen before in the history of media, and likely the history of people.’’

Why am I not surprised that, in a separate study, he found that women were more affected than men by seeing themselves on a video for all too many hours in the day? What to do? I’ve found that when joining meetings on local issues it’s OK to do so without a video link; you can hear what’s said, view presentations, see videos of others who have joined, but you yourself appear as a black box; many people do this. Word of warning: unless you keep quiet, or they ‘mute’ you, you can still be heard by all the others.

He also suggests shrinking video window sizes so faces appear smaller. My suggestion would be to ditch reading glasses of all sorts so you only hear the voices; better still, make an old-fashioned phone call.

Independent financial advisors are, on the whole, keen on virtual meetings. They extoll the environmental benefits of clients, as well as themselves, not having to travel long distances. Having paperwork to hand at home and family able to see – and join in – on what’s being said. Funny that this usually doesn’t translate into lower charges.

While on the subject of meetings, the comedian David Mitchell last month did 3 programmes on BBC Radio 4 on this subject. Interesting and amusing https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000t4t4

He mentioned that the meeting for the Treaty of Versailles lasted for 6 months…now there you have a marathon nightmare!

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