Zoom and other online teaching and communicating tools are being used intensively during the pandemic to allow us to keep up with our studies. The fast transformation of Lund University to online classes and the availability of resources has allowed many of us to complete our academic milestones as planned. Still, we need to be aware of the impact of these frequent online activities and ask ourselves: Why do we feel fatigued using this technology? How can we overcome this draining feeling?
Social isolation and relationships Technology allows us to stay connected during social isolation, but of course only to a certain degree. Despite this connection, technology makes it harder to foster new relationships, especially for international students. Students have no opportunity to make such connections during Zoom meetings, contributing a lot to feelings of isolation and fatigue.
Tip 1: Entering the Zoom class a few minutes earlier can provide a good chance for chitchat with your teachers and classmates. If you have been in Sweden for quite some time, please reach out to other students during breaks and initiate a friendly catch-up with newbies.
The role of physical space The Self-Complexity Theory states that our environment mitigates our social roles. In the work environment we assume specific social roles, while at home our social role changes to family, and at university we act in various social roles. Predictably, as our social role boundaries became hazy it became harder for our brain to perform effectively while being in the same environment. Being in the same setting all the time during your Zoom calls with family, friends, and during lectures makes it even harder.
Tip 2: Creating an environmental scaffold to separate social roles can help you to fabricate a diverse feel for your various social roles. This will result in a decrease of that fatigue effect and provide a better opportunity to recharge your brain. Dedicate a corner in your room to conduct your Zoom work/study meetings and physically change spots when you plan to have online social engagements or fun gatherings with friends.
Zoom-ers and energy management Many of us are getting fed up with being cautious during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the online meetings have been a significant part of our caution fatigue. Although our transportation and transit time went down to zero, we feel drained after only a few hours of Zoom meetings or classes. Additionally, we are not getting the usual social cues so we have to over-perform to get engaged and put extra effort into our tone of voice. We are definitely losing our natural empathy, and we can see this when (for example) the person presenting online easily loses track of time.
Tip 3: Always remind your teachers that you need frequent breaks to recharge and maintain your concentration level.
Maximize your learning experience Frequently being on Zoom has encouraged many of us to turn off our cameras and just attend lectures as a black box with our names. From my own experience, having the camera off reduces my learning experience as a student and doesn’t help the teacher interact well with us. Whether I am the presenter or the audience, missing sufficient visual contact reduces interaction and decreases the lecture vibe. On the other hand, with the cameras turned on the brain can be overloaded from trying to process all participants' backgrounds (wallpapers, furniture, plants, and so on).
Tip 4: While I encourage you to keep your cameras on, it is advisable to make your background as plain as possible to reduce visual cues from the background environment.
Finally, most of us have become experienced Zoom-ers and we are trying our best to adapt to these changes and maximize our benefits from the offered tools. Keep it up guys! I hope that academic life will soon return back to normal and we can meet physically again.