By Lexi Meola
Elm Staff Writer
This time last year, Washington College moved to using Zoom and other online applications for classes and meetings.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many students and professors are struggling with the side effects of using Zoom — including burnout and fatigue — from constantly being on the social platform — and are now faced with Zoom anxiety.
Psychology Today defines Zoom anxiety as “anxious symptoms preceding, during, and following a social interaction on Zoom.”
“Unfortunately, in some video gatherings, we can feel chained to a chair and the screen and that can be physically draining even though it seems like we’re not doing anything physical,” Psychology Today said.
According to BBC reporter Manyu Jiang, because calling in via a virtual meeting app “mean[s] we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and body language,” our focus becomes devoting as much energy as possible to each meeting, leaving us both exhausted and worried about what else is to come.
This anxiety can stem from how people see themselves on camera and what could be in their background. The overwhelming fear of someone walking by or your animals making noise while on a call can spike many people’s nervousness about approaching a Zoom call.
“Others of us, though, have a hard time being ‘OK’ with our cameras on and we can feel ‘exposed’ in ways that we don’t normally feel in group situations,” according to Psychology Today.
There are multiple ways to help combat Zoom anxiety; for most people, tackling this apprehension can begin prior to the call even starting.
“A great way to counteract worry in the anticipatory phrase is by using supportive self-talk. Tell yourself it’s going to be OK. Make positive predictions,” Psychology Today said.
While this technique is not going to terminate the anxiety completely, it helps to calm someone’s nerves before it turns too extreme.
Another recommended method is to eliminate distractions that could take away your focus. This could mean shutting down other devices, closing other tabs on your computer, and placing yourself in an environment which you will not be disturbed by others.
Even having a glass of water, a cup of tea, or a lit candle next to your workspace can help not only grant a change in pace where you take your Zoom calls, but can also alleviate stress and reduce anxiety.
Some anxiety can come from the thought of technology not working. It can be embarrassing if someone’s microphone is not turned on when they are trying to speak.
According to a 2014 post from Zoom’s blog, “when talking over the phone, no one’s looking at you. Through video, that little protective wall is demolished. You’re on display for everyone to see, even if you’re appearing in a tiny icon.”
It is important to remember that, while it may seem you are going through this alone, it is stressful for many students and professors on Zoom.
To ease anxiety, it is best to take one step at a time to eliminate distractions and create a positive environment. Reminding yourself that you are not by yourself in this situation will help to alleviate your own anxiety.
Featured Photo caption: As the College undergoes yet another semester of online learning, several students have experienced Zoom anxiety during their virtual class meetings — here are some tricks to help fight it off. Photo by Rebecca Kanaskie.