What and why makes me think that Skype or any other video chat fatigue is a real thing? What can you do about it?
I have never been a fan of virtual reality, neither in professional and even less in my private ”real” life. Not only because it affects human health, notably our inner world and emotions, but it does also our social life component. Yes, the internet is OK and it has penetrated almost all aspects of life. Beside its considerable positive impact on our lives, it inevitably has also not only some serious negative effects on our lives, but it can also seriously affect our values, moral, and viewpoints. Negative influence of internet culture has grown into a major concern in our society.
Let me share with you some of my insights about significant impact that all those pretty and useful video chats notably those related to our professional, has on our health, especially mental health.
Well, the other day I had 4 Skype and 2 Zoom video calls. In addition to this, the weekend before I participated in an online education over Friday and Saturday and spent in total 12 in front of the screen. It was really painful experience for me.
Those 6 video meetings (online consultations and some meetings) I had with my clients at my office and with some colleagues and people I need to meet with at work.
I’m sure many of you are in the same boat. Unfortunately, this is one of the realities of COVID-19. I am optimistic that this form of social gathering and contacts will end soon. Notably in Croatia because I do not see any single reason for keeping people in the atmosphere of a collective psychosis.
Do not get me wrong, I’m thankful that all these video chat technologies (VCT) exist and allow me to continue to meet and see my clients, have work meetings, and connect with people that are important to me. Nevertheless, it turns out that video conferencing has a dark side.
I noticed it early on, after my Skype usage doubled or tripled. I have realized that I would feel disconnected, tired, exhausted. In other words, almost Zombie-like after a long day of video calls.
I was already aware that too much time in front of a screen makes me feel rather empty and not well, but this was much worse. Something else was going on. Hence, I decided to explore further on and do some research. Guess what? I wasn’t surprised at all to learn of a phenomenon that psychologists have identified as VCT fatigue.
Video chat technologies fatigue
What it means is that when we communicate, we rely heavily on non-verbal cues like facial expressions, gestures, and other forms of body language. While being on a video call, these cues are often hidden, distorted or just less clear than they would be in person. In other words, human brain must work harder to decode them. All that simply drains our energy.
Multi-person calls pose an additional challenge, because our brains are forced to try to interpret these cues from more than one person at the same time, notably in so called gallery view where people appear in a grid).
The bottom line – and one way to think about the whole thing is that video conferencing is to in-person interaction as sort of processed food is to real food. It’s a artificial, fake and generally poor imitation.
How can you reduce VCT fatigue?
Hence, with this in mind, and as I already criticize this form of communication, what do I suggest to to reduce VCT fatigue?
First of all, re-establish communication ”business as usual” whenever possible. If not than:
–Consider whether a call is needed at all, or if a shared document could also work.
-Turn off video, or simply choose to have a regular phone call, when video isn’t necessary
-Try taking calls outside, or better yet, while you’re walking. Being outdoors does wonders for refreshing your brain.
-Make sure your lighting is good and people can clearly see your facial features
-Choose single person speaker view, unless it is critical to see people’s non-verbal reactions to the speaker.
-If you have to be in front of your PC or laptop on a Skype or Zoom call, try facing off to the side rather than looking directly at the screen. Beforehand, you can explain to your interlocutors on the other side on the call why you’re doing this so they don’t think you’re being unpolite.
-Take a break in between meetings to catch up before diving into business. This helps us to feel more connected and less tired.
-Schedule breaks and transition periods between meetings, where you can stretch, go outside, and get away from the screen to refresh yourself.
I will surely apply real communication whenever possible. I’ve learned my lesson in the past few weeks and decided to avoid VCT fatigue -only when really needed- because no money can buy my psychophysical health and balance.