Zoom fatigue: What is it? What can students do about it?

  • Why do zoom classes feel more tiring than live classes? 


    Zoom is exhausting because it causes us to hyper-focus on a reduced set of visual cues. Humans have evolved to decipher many different nonverbal cues conveyed during an in-person conversation and, for most of us, deciphering these cues (such as body language) comes naturally. On zoom, though, our brain searches for cues it can’t find. 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. 


    In the virtual classroom setting, also, a student is  likely to show their teacher that they’re paying attention by holding an unnatural and unbroken gaze. There’s constant pressure (often unconscious) on each student to provide affirmation.  These factors combine to overwhelm our brains and make us uncomfortable without also giving us a sense of accomplishment.


    Zoom is also tiring because virtual communication disrupts the normal risk vs reward assessments that our brains are hardwired to make. Face to face interactions are intrinsically rewarding: they activate the regions of our brain associated with reward and lay the groundwork for emotional intimacy. Over zoom, the effort undertaken to connect often seems out of balance with the reward received. The tools that help us to bond as humans, and as part of the Las Lomas community, are compromised. 


    When students are together in person with their teacher, there are social pressures, accountability, and emotional benefits that help engage and motivate them. With zoom, there is more distraction, less oversight, and less intimacy. It is simply harder for most students to perform, and this impact is magnified for students with weaker academic backgrounds. Some kids, though, actually perform better on zoom--some Las Lomas students are thriving. For those that aren't, though, the tips below may be helpful.


    How to minimize zoom fatigue? 


    First, spend a few moments before you get on zoom to ground yourself. Take some deep breaths and notice how your body feels. Be present and comfortable. Situate your screen away from glare. 


    Choose speaker view and hide self-view whenever possible. This will help reduce the extraneous stimuli that cause fatigue. 


    Resist the urge to multi-task. Close your other tabs and put your phone away. Doing more than one thing at a time actually reduces productivity and hinders your ability to retain information.


    Look away from your computer at regular intervals. Give your eyes a rest. Practice the 20-20-20 principal: every 20 minutes look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Blink often.


    Take breaks. Stand up and stretch. Go outside as often as you can. Walnut Creek has some great trails. If you can, recharge your batteries with a walk in nature.


    When a phone call can substitute for zoom, choose it. It’s much less draining to speak by phone. Plus, our ability to retain information is greater by phone than zoom. 


    Be gentle with yourself. Remind yourself that we’re in new territory. Zoom communication isn’t perfect (and indeed has many flaws) but it’s better than no communication at all. None of this is easy. So, if you’re struggling, please reach out. The Wellness Center is here to support you!