Meeting people on Zoom versus real life is weirdly different. I have a Zoom community of writers from the Women’s Fiction Writers Association that I’ve regularly met with since June of 2020. I’ve gotten to know them in a square box, generally at a desk.
I recently attended our group’s Albuquerque writer’s retreat and meet these women in person. What a surprise! First off, I had to look carefully as everyone had a mask and I was not used to seeing masked faces. Secondly, I had just assumed we were all the same height. Boy, was I wrong! Seeing how tall or how short my colleagues were was fascinating. Then, too, I was more aware of their gestures and expressions in person than online.
ZOOM VERSUS REAL LIFE SNAP JUDGMENTS
According to Wired, snap judgments are made when we meet people for the first time.
Psychologists have found that we evaluate whether someone is trustworthy in one tenth of a second – a 2018 survey of 2,000 Americans found that 69 per cent formed a first impression of someone before they even spoke. Body language, height, weight, eye contact, and even walking styles are all things we use to judge others, but they’re also things that are rendered fairly invisible on Zoom calls.
ZOOM VERSUS REAL LIFE POSITIVES AND NEGATIVES
In many ways, Zoom meetings create more inclusion, since it removes the above body cues, forcing us to suspend judgment in those areas.
One thing Zoom does is keep people from having sidebar conversations or talking over one another. When two or more try to talk at the same time, everything is garbled. Thus, taking turns is mandatory. Raising your hand if you want to speak becomes important. For the skillful meeting manager, this might make it easier to keep a few from dominating a meeting.
However, joint attention is missing on Zoom. For instance, in real life, if the speaker turns to another person, so do the others in the group. When looking at the pictures in the box, this is not possible. No one knows exactly who you are looking at.
In some respects, Zoom has a way of revealing more about a person because you see them in their home environment rather than in a relatively sterile office or conference room. I’ve gotten to know Dickens the cat and the Bronte the dog, as well as enjoy the beautiful views some writers have from their desks and piers. We’ve seen kids and occasionally a husband as well. Unfortunately, if you are in a group where some members are wealthier than others, seeing the trappings of affluence might be intimidating if you are not a member of that economic group.
One big thing, though, that gets missed through Zoom is the informal communication. Sometimes, simply having an impromptu chat can spur ideas. Sometimes concerns aren’t important enough to call or email about. Then, too, when people are not bound by the purpose or time constraints of a Zoom meeting, they open up in remarkable ways. Lastly, it’s easier to pick up on subtle changes in the body language or demeanor of those around you.
Lastly, on the downside, participants can disconnect while appearing to be present, doing things such as answering emails, texting with others, scanning the internet, or even having sex.
What are your Zoom experiences?