Our lives for the last year have had to incorporate a whole new level of unanticipated online activity including gatherings, meetings, classes, weddings, funerals, and grocery shopping, to name a few. It has required that we learn a new language and crazy computer skills which I personally did not previously have. Truth be told, I am not sure I remember anything longer than the actual moment I need the acquired skill. I don’t want to clog up my arteries with useless data or blow up my brain cells when I already have so few left at my disposal. What was I writing about again?
Take last Saturday, we virtually co-lead one of the required marriage preparation classes. Mind you it is seven hours long. That is a long time to do a ‘dog and pony show’ on a small screen attempting to engage someone. Thank goodness we were not the lead couple and had to assume all the duties associated with it.
Now I need to send out links or be invited, or not accidently delete that email, then spend an hour looking for said email, and finally cut my losses and embarrassingly ask for the link to be resent because, “I must not have received it.” All the while the moderator is trying to start the meeting and deal with all the other dinosaur brains like myself. Welcome to the Zoom Zone. About the time I begin to grasp how to ‘share my screen’ and get comfortable with the web meeting program, I am thrust into using another. “How do I make you the presenter again?” I don’t know if you have had similar frustrations. I am sure we could all commiserate about the various new-fangled jargon and comical things we have seen when the camera was rolling and someone in the background who was unaware, gave us something to talk about for months.
I have learned the critical importance of muting my audio when not speaking, or everyone gets to freely eavesdrop on conversations unintended for their ears. It is like awkwardly overhearing someone’s confession. You can’t unhear it. I was gesturing wildly to Mark when the audio was on and he kept asking mundane questions not necessarily pertinent to the topic. “Oh, sorry, is the mic on?” “Nope, I am just making these faces and gestures, ‘cause I have an itch.”
Of course, there are those who are extremely adept at the ever changing technological and virtual gadgetry, who quickly adapt and hone new skills. Anyone under forty comes to mind. I am not suggesting that anyone over forty does not possess these mad skills, it however seems to come easier to younger minds. “Grandma, do you need me to change the channel for you again?” There are some of us more seasoned folks who have wandered the planet longer, who are just getting further and further behind. We absolutely must keep that in mind as we go forward.
I think for me it started a few decades ago when each device came with its own remote, but then there was also a universal remote that worked with some of the stuff some of the time. When Mark (remote guru) was away on a trip, I could not even figure out how to get a DVD to play or what input to select. I would finally beg one of the kids to show me. “Just give it to me, I’ll do it” they would say. And they would, but not before tossing one of those pathetic ignoramus looks my way. Suffice it to say, I didn’t watch many movies.
I had to laugh out loud a few times early on as we were introducing the couples attending the class. One of the couples had only half of one of their faces visible. The host asked if they might move the computer a bit to capture both of them. The next screen shot was of their ceiling and just the tops of their heads. “Can you sit closer together maybe and move your screen down a little” asked the moderator. More adjustments were made and eventually we saw their sweet faces. Once the class started some couples immediately muted their mics and shut off the video feed. We were not altogether sure if they were in the same room or anywhere near the computer. Oh well, their loss. Although I don’t know if that was worse or if seeing their bored unengaged, or disinterested body language. We appreciate those who did engage and participate and tossed us a bone now and then, so we did not speak into 30 black holes.
I get that it is a better option than a total shut down of information. On the other hand, it is never a substitute for in-person human contact and relationship building. Frankly, when we are doing the virtual thing, it feels like I am just talking to myself in the mirror trying not to hyper-focus on what’s going on with my funky hair, or how wildly I gesture when I speak. I find myself wondering if I really look like that when I am teaching. Clearly the camera doesn’t lie. It takes superhuman strength to not look at myself at all, but it’s hard not to with those wild flailing arms going at full speed.
There is never a substitute for in-person human contact and relationship building.
I for one hope this virtual business meeting stuff is over soon or I’m going to have to go to the virtual hairdresser, orthodontist, and Botox specialist. Yikes. I don’t think we were meant to spend that much time in front of the lens. I hear that cosmetic surgery is on the up tic since so many people are having to spend so much virtual time in front of the screen. “Oh vanity of vanities…” perhaps he was speaking of this time.
I met recently with an international women’s group whom I had never met before. It was funny all the considerations that went into my decision of where to sit, what I wore at least from the waist up, and what background I wanted. Silly, I know. But don’t tell me I am the only one making these decisions before entering the Zoom Zone. What I do love about this technology was having such ease in meeting women on the other side of the globe, and realizing we have so very much in common. What a blessing.
With all good things, there will be a downside of course. My hope is that as “retro” becomes popular again, I can get just the basic on/off button and a dial. Then perhaps I will get caught up on some of the movies I missed so many years ago.