• Steven Heller

The Daily Heller: Baby Zoomers and the Next Gen Thing

For most of the fateful year 2020, Zoom has become our default method of mass (more than two people or one person and a pet to entire staff gatherings) communication. There are other meeting and greeting platforms, but Zoom has captured the flag. We have become officially (take your pick): Baby Zoomers, GenZ(oom)ers, Zoomies or Zoombies generation.


Little did they know …

Zoom's propitious availability at this stressful moment in history has indeed helped reduce some of the gloom and doom caused by pandemic isolation and remote-existence, yet it has also added unintended, stressful and addictive behavioral consequences. Zoom fatigué is a catchall for the sundry annoyances that emerge in normal and abnormal interpersonal relationships. For instance, it is not rare to like or love someone in real life while disliking or hate them in Zoom-space (or vice versa). Zoom can alter who you are, how you present yourself and how people perceive you. (An unproven but certain fact.)


While not solitary confinement per se, Zoom is a form of imprisonment or house arrest in a digital cell. The daily, multiple one-hour increments of framed head and shoulders sitting passively or twitching in front of digital wallpaper (including solar systems, rain forests, mountain ranges, lush landscapes, idyllic cloudscapes, Golden Gate bridge-scapes or the obnoxious family outings on Lake Self-Quarantine-scapes (where they--or you-- would much rather be), accompanied by the repeated grating refrains of "can you hear me?" "Can you see my screen?" "Why isn't this working?" is root-canal-to-the-brain.


We are inured to bad zoom-iquette. The worst being Zoomers who maddeningly persist in eating food (soup, sandwich, ramen, string cheese, etc.) while on camera. Just watching, or worse, listening to the chomping and slurping on their unmuted mics drives me insane.


If this pandemic will indeed leave us with Zoom as a persistent habit, let's all agree that eating (ingesting or chewing of any kind), house pet cameos (with the exception of extremely cute puppies), infant sightings (including to die-for ones), self-consciously staged backgrounds, Jeffery Toobinesque auto-erotic faux pas and, I repeat, masticating any substance especially things that drip, are forbidden! If you must do any of these things for mental health or other clinical needs, turn off the camera/sound and just disappear until the urges are over.


Then there is the issue of screen sharing: I prefer seeing a "deck" of images to someone talking or eating (or eating while talking), but everyone knows that until the next big (12G) broadband technology is introduced, most video transmissions have a tendency to lag, unstable connections freeze images and sound/picture synchronizations are often compromised—audio reverbs are intolerable. Oh, lighting: Just turn on a desk or overhead lamp. No one has to be Greta Garbo or Cary Grant on Zoom. The spread of tools for vanity has become an epidemic. Can we just keep the hardware simple? (After Covid-19 is over, much of the cheap lighting, mics, make-up kits, etc., will be on the street anyway. I've yet to take my $48.98 Amazon Preferred professional mic out of its box, ear buds work just as well.)


Don't get me wrong, Zoom is an extraordinary civilizing tool. Thanks to founder Eric S. Yuan, his developers, manufacturers, marketers, front-end and back-end employees, etc. But it is also fraught with potential probleeeeeeeeeeee … "oops, I seem to have an unstaaaaable. . . I'm frozen. What do I do now? Can anyone hear me? I gueeeeessss, I'll write in the chat to meet on Goooooooogle Hangout . . ."

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