An Introvert’s Musings on Zoom Fatigue
Recently, a lot of people have been talking and writing about Zoom fatigue. By now, I think most of us are aware of what it is and have access to lots of advice on how to mitigate the impact of too many video calls. The consensus seems to be that this fatigue hits everyone equally. However, a recent article in the Wall Street Journal suggests that not all people experience the same video conference burnout level. The most telling predictor of your level of video call fatigue may be: Are you an extrovert or an introvert?
Last week was my first week as a full-time employee at Zoom. As part of my efforts to read everything Zoom-related that I could cram into my brain, I stumbled upon an article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ): Zoom Fatigue: The Differing Impact on Introverts and Extroverts. In the piece, medical experts from academic institutions such as Harvard University, Stanford University, University of Massachusetts, and Weill Cornell Medical College, shared some interesting opinions on a phenomenon that’s come to be known as “Zoom fatigue.” (This label might more accurately be called “video meeting fatigue,” but such is life as the brand leader.)
What does your personality type have to do with it?
Although perspectives varied, those quoted in the WSJ piece all seemed to agree that there IS a correlation between being an introvert or an extrovert and the level of video call burnout you experience. However, SPOILER ALERT: The article presented no unified conclusion about extrovert vs. introvert Zoom fatigue. It was a collection of different opinions. And while I heartily encourage reading the article for more details from those experts, I’d like to add to the mix a bit of personal perspective.
I’ve been a video conference participant since 2008. Yup, pre-Zoom (which was founded in 2011), other companies tried and failed to become the go-to, multi-person, video-conferencing-over-the-internet platform. I worked for one of those companies for almost seven years. I’ve spent an excessive amount of time on video calls for the last 12 years and have maintained a professional interest in how people react to participating in these kinds of meetings.
Take, for example, my good friend and housemate, Elizabeth. She is a corporate lawyer in San Francisco and a self-proclaimed extrovert. “Being in crowds energizes me,” I’ve heard her say. I, on the other hand, consider myself an introvert. Granted, I know how to “act” like an extrovert when the need arises, but to recharge and focus, I need my space and savor my alone time.
Over the last year, both Elizabeth and I have had to participate in a daily average of four to five hours of video conferences for our respective professional endeavors. My vitality is zapped after so many consecutive meetings. On the other hand, Elizabeth waxes poetic about how much being on Zoom calls gives her strength, energy, and joy. Yes, she literally uses the word “joy.” Extroverts get power from being in other people’s presence. It doesn’t matter if the people they’re speaking with are virtual or in person. If Elizabeth can interact with others face-to-face, she’s happy.
What does this mean for you, in particular? Take the survey!
In February of this year, a group at Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL) unveiled the results of a study on the psychological ramifications of spending too many hours per day on video calls. The research drew a great deal of attention — a web search on “Zoom Fatigue + Stanford University” will garner dozens of articles about the study’s findings.
Stanford is now taking this research to the next level and might soon have further findings, including information about extroverts and introverts vis-a-vis meeting fatigue. At the conclusion of a March 9 article in the Stanford News, Stanford researchers identify four causes for ‘Zoom fatigue’ and their simple fixes, is the following call-to-action: Readers are also invited to participate in a research study aimed at developing a Zoom Exhaustion & Fatigue Scale (ZEF) Scale. According to the article, The scale … advances research on how to measure fatigue from interpersonal technology, as well as what causes the fatigue. The scale … has been tested across five separate studies over the past year with over 500 participants. My interest piqued, I took the 10-minute survey.
The first group of multiple-choice questions tries to determine where a respondent fits on the extrovert vs. introvert spectrum in the questionnaire. You are asked to reply to statements such as, I usually take the initiative to introduce myself to strangers with responses that ranged from: “Not at all like me” to “Exactly like me.” Some other statements to which you’re asked to respond similarly are: I’m generally concerned about the impression I’m making on others; Sometimes I think that I take things other people say to me too personally; and I can easily adjust to being in just about any social situation.
Among other things, it seems to me that this in-progress Stanford study is exploring the whole introvert/extrovert conundrum. My guess is that they will find extroverted people to get more innate pleasure from video meetings. Introverts like myself will need to identify ways to balance meetings with restorative solace. However, in my humble opinion, the benefits of video interaction far outweigh any possible bouts of weariness. And Zoomies can take heart. According to an article on the VeryWellMind.com website, it’s estimated that extroverts outnumber introverts by about 3 to 1.
Zoom happy, my friends.
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If you’ve read some of the many articles that address how to combat Zoom fatigue, you’re already aware that there are easy ways to lessen or avoid possible burnout from too many video conferences. Just remember the following.
There’s no harm in taking a meeting on the phone or using chat when a video meeting is unnecessary. Zoom Phone and Zoom Chat are excellent alternatives. If a video meeting is in the cards, keep these helpful hints in mind:
- Hide your self-view. Staring at your face can be distracting for some users.
- Minimize the Zoom screen to about one-third the size of your monitor. That way, the people you’re speaking with aren’t too close-up.
- Set your camera/device at a distance, or use an external camera so you can have more flexibility to move around. Or go really wild and take that meeting on the go. Join via phone and make it a walking meeting.
- If you’re having one of those days, just turn off your camera from time to time and give yourself an audio-only break.
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