Not everybody Hates Looking at Themselves on Zoom

Zoom fatigue is a real condition; for some others, the “constant mirror” effect of seeing their faces didn’t appear to make virtual meetings more unpleasant, a new study at Washington State University.

looking at themselves on Zoom
looking at themselves on Zoom

Coronavirus has impacted our life in every spectrum. More than just being a respiratory disease, it had the potential to change our lifestyle also. The covid pandemic paved the way for online classes and zoom meetings.

This constant exposure to zoom has caused a condition called zoom fatigue. It is the extreme tiredness, worries, or burnout associated with the overuse of platforms used in video conferencing. 

It was thought that this kind of constant videoconferencing was tiresome for people. But even though Zoom fatigue is a real condition, for some others, the “constant mirror” effect of seeing their faces didn’t appear to make virtual meetings more unpleasant, a Washington State University study has found.

The study surveyed two categories of people who attended regular online meetings as a result of the pandemic: employees and college students. 

The participants’ attitudes toward the self-view feature depended on an individual trait—public self-consciousness. Public self-consciousness is an awareness of oneself, as it is viewed by others. It is a kind of self-consciousness and in its extreme, it lays the way to social anxiety or self-obsession.

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Those low in public consciousness tended to have more positive attitudes toward their virtual meetings the more often their faces were visible to them. Since most of such people are not conscious about their view in public, they have fewer issues when they see their faces on the platform.

“Most people believe that seeing yourself during virtual meetings contributes to making the overall experience worse, but that’s not what showed up in my data,” said Kristine Kuhn, associate professor in WSU’s Carson College of Business and author of the study published in Computers in Human Behavior. 

She added that “It depended on the individual.”

What was the Study?

During 2020, when the covid pandemic was spreading rapidly and online classes were at their apex, Kuhn surveyed two categories of people. The first group involves around 80 employees from different parts of the US. They were regular employees before covid, but after that, they had been shifted for remote work. The other group included around 350 students from a business college. Their classes were also shifted to online due to the pandemic.

The social experiment was conducted via a questionnaire method. All the participants were asked a variety of questions about the nature of their work or class meetings. their attitudes and feelings toward them were also collected. Along with that, They also completed an assessment of their degree of public self-consciousness.

For both groups, the study revealed there was not a simple correlation between how often people saw their faces on screens during their virtual meetings and their overall responses toward them. The attitude of different people towards virtual meetings thus becomes different.

For people with high public consciousness, more frequent self-view was associated with worse attitudes, and the opposite was true for those low in the public consciousness. This public consciousness was directly proportional to their self-consciousness as well. High self-conscious people might have overthought it, and this may have resulted in their anxiety.

Kuhn noted that there are lots of factors that influence how contended people are with their online work or education, including their perceived control over when to have their camera on. She cautioned that the study and hence the results only focused on people’s emotional reactions to their experience of virtual meetings and did not assess factors like meeting productivity or learning outcomes.

Further detailed experiments are needed on how to use virtual meeting platforms effectively, she added, because they are likely not going away as many people transition to hybrid work schedules, and universities look into maintaining some virtual educational components. The online education system and online work at home jobs are the need of the era and surely, the future also will highly depend on that.

So, as studies are conducted in workspaces to analyze productivity, there is a need to conduct such analysis on the virtual platforms also. For example, the current study results indicate that managers and teachers should be careful when making blanket rules around camera use. Likewise, if we are studying this area carefully, we can make the overall experience more productive.

“It’s just not really one size fits all,” Kuhn said. “A manager running a team meeting would probably prefer everybody to have their camera on. At the same time, you should recognize that there’s probably a cost to that, so understand that just because it’s what you prefer, it isn’t necessarily ideal for everybody.”

This study is important because it has given us insights into the new trends in using virtual media effectively. As such platforms will be an important part of our daily life, better usage of them will help us design the classes and workspace, to increase better productivity.


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