by Katelyn To
Graphic by Jennifer Notman
Ever since the drastic transition from in-person school to meetings through Zoom, many people have felt more drained than ever. While schools have been teaching through distance learning for a few months now, the adjustment remains difficult, and that difficulty can be largely traced back to Zoom, the video-conference platform used by many on the daily.
A survey sent out to all Las Lomas students revealed that most students have less energy after a typical school day on Zoom than a school day in-person. 30.8% of respondents chose a 3 out of 10 when rating energy level after a school day on Zoom, while the majority of students answered a 7 out of 10 for a typical school day before the pandemic. While there are some exceptions, it is clear that what some call “Zoom fatigue” is more prevalent than previously expected.
So, why exactly do Zoom meetings exhaust people so much? There are multiple reasons. First, the fact that this social interaction must occur online comes with some problems. “Zoom is exhausting because it causes us to hyper-focus on a reduced set of visual cues,” said Elizabeth King, Las Lomas’s Wellness Intake Specialist. She explained how people are used to interpreting many cues when socializing in-person, and on Zoom, that just doesn’t occur. “This is more pronounced on gallery view because we’re attempting to decode so many people at once, and no one person comes through meaningfully,” King said.
Another more obvious reason is the extended period of sitting that comes with doing school through Zoom. “We don’t get the natural physical breaks of walking from place to place unless we intentionally do that,” said Ms. Ginsberg, a Human and Social Development teacher at Las Lomas.
Senior Rin Boegel said, “I see school as the place to work and home as the place to relax. It’s why I’ve had so much trouble with homework in the past, and it’s why I have such a hard time with Zoom meetings right now.” Sophomore Elizabeth Flores added, “Sitting in the same spot can be harder when you’re just staring straight ahead the whole time, rather than looking up at a teacher in person, turning toward classmates, [or] doing interactive in-class activities.” Freshman Alex Joyce gave a similar reason and compared the prolonged sedentary position of Zoom meetings to “flying on a plane or going on a road trip,” which often comes with exhaustion as well.
Las Lomas students have experienced Zoom fatigue in many different ways. Junior Tim Shargel said, “[I have] spent more time using Youtube, [playing] video games, and [listening to] music, but less time studying and learning on my own.” Freshman Ellery Brownlee said, “My work ethic is not nearly what it used to be. I finish my work sluggishly with many distractions, instead of getting it all over with as soon as I get home from school.”
On the other hand, some reported feeling unaffected by the change to Zoom or even having more energy with school through Zoom meetings. “I find myself more rested after a day of Zoom because when teachers have gone through what they need to for the day, they are able to let us go,” said sophomore Ethan Freed. “This allows me to kind of rest and recuperate before the next class, which is not really possible in physical school.” Freshman Ray Adams also said, “My work ethic and productivity have surprisingly doubled, and nearly tripled, as there is more flexibility and less distractions in my room than there usually is at school.”
Teachers at Las Lomas have also noticed changes in the majority of students who have experienced Zoom fatigue, in addition to being affected themselves. “There are less disruptions, but it is not worth the trade-off when this leads to less student interaction in class,” said Las Lomas PE teacher Mr. Ivankovich. Because of this decreased energy due to Zoom, it can be difficult on both ends to create an ideal class environment.
Not only that, but teachers have had to deal with their own difficulties with Zoom. Ms. Ginsberg said, “I am somewhat of an extrovert, and I find that sometimes I really miss that feeling of social connection, but it’s much better when I talk to students one-on-one or in small groups.” Mr. Ivanovich said, “This has been my most difficult year as a teacher. It has been like starting over.” However, he added, “In other ways my life has been simplified, and I appreciate that.”
While Zoom fatigue can seem inevitable, there are many things you can do to help it. King recommends the 20-20-20 rule. “Every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds.” Additionally, she said, “Choose speaker view and hide self-view whenever possible [to] help reduce the extraneous stimuli that cause fatigue,” as well as avoiding multitasking and opting for phone calls instead of Zoom when possible.