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If you’re feeling more exhausted than ever by a never-ending loop of Zoom calls, you’re not alone.
After extensive research, Stanford professor Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL), lined out exactly why.
According to Stanford NewsStanford News, Bailenson determined four main causes for general videoconferencing fatigue. In his peer-reviewed academic paper for Technology, Mind and BehaviorTechnology, Mind and Behavior, he posits how and why constant videoconferencing can be fatiguing. Luckily, he also suggest ways to alleviate the exhaustion associated with it.
Bailenson found that one of the main reasons video calls are so taxing is because of all the eye contact. There’s an “unnatural” amount of eye contact with others during these conferences.
“Social anxiety of public speaking is one of the biggest phobias that exists in our population,” Bailenson explains. “When you’re standing up there and everybody’s staring at you, that’s a stressful experience.”
He says when using Zoom for “many, many hours” we enter a “hyper-aroused state” due to the closeness of others’ faces. As our brains interpret this as an intense situation, this can take a toll on the body. One recommendation to ease this stress is by using a smaller Zoom window and lessening full-screen use.
Similarly, Bailenson believes seeing yourself on video calls can be fatiguing, much like someone “following you around with a mirror constantly.” His solution? Platforms should eliminate this practice as a regular feature. Users can hide “self-view” after ensuring they’re framed correctly before calls.
The director also states that video calls can reduce our mobility in frustrating ways. Being forced to sit in one place to communicate via video limits our ability to move around in ways that aren’t “natural.” He recommends placing external cameras further from the screen or periodically turning cameras off for a state of rest.
Finally, Bailenson believes that there’s a higher cognitive load during video chats than during face-to-face interaction.
“You’ve got to make sure that your head is framed within the center of the video,” he says. “If you want to show someone that you are agreeing with them, you have to do an exaggerated nod or put your thumbs up. That adds cognitive load as you’re using mental calories in order to communicate.”
A quick fix, he says, is to take an “audio only” break from time to time. That’s advice that can be applied to the overall Zoom experience.
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