In recent weeks it has been difficult to determine what to discuss in my monthly blog post because everything I came up with felt unimportant in this COVID-19 world. Then, last night, it occurred to me that there is something I need to get off my chest. It is trivial in the grand scheme of things, but also timely because as social distancing continues, it has become more and more of a common. I’ve decided to share it because maybe someone, somewhere feels the same way.
You see, I hate video chats.
I always have. I always will. There’s a reason I write a blog and host a podcast. It isn’t that I hate cameras. I love having my picture taken (I’m vain that way) and I like being filmed (I have literally worked in front of a camera for a decade now). It's that live video chatting makes me feel awkward, uncomfortable, unnatural, and unhappy.
I remember when webcams first became popular sometime around the end of the last century and the beginning of this one. I was one of those teens who thought it would be so cool to have one and then sat it on my desk where it looked like a little grey eyeball waiting to show me to the world. But I never used it. Actually, that’s not true. I used it approximately two times to talk to my internet friend in the UK, but after the novelty of “oh that’s what she looks like!” wore off, we reverted right back to our AIM chat windows. (I still miss AIM.) Then I used it a few times to take what we would now call selfies because I liked the idea that I could be my own photographer and immediately see the results. Even that faded out eventually.
Modern Day Me purposely doesn’t have a camera on her desktop computer and loves it that way. I also don’t have FaceTime or Skype and I’ve only used Zoom when my friend invites me to a Zoom chat because we need to have a professional meeting. Even then, I pray someone – anyone – in the chat will suggest we all turn off the video monitor. In order for me to even participate I have to pull out my relic of a laptop that has a built-in camera. I do it, because it’s necessary, but I don’t enjoy it.
Now, as more and more events are moving online out of necessity and many friends of mine talk about virtual happy hours or post screenshots of how many people they have video chatting at one time, I wonder if I’m the only person whose anxiety spikes when the video chat option gets mentioned.
I always feel like I’m in some sort of weird cage when video chatting that’s even worse than when I’m on a phone. I have to sit in a chair and stare at a screen while everyone else stares at me staring at them. Someone's volume is always wonky. Someone else gets distracted. Yet another person talks too much or not enough. If you do too many other things while chatting, it can appear rude – and I’ve seen some rude things during video chats that I haven’t forgotten, so I go out of my way not to be That Person, but I'm sure I annoy people all the time in my own way. The whole experience causes me to feel constrained, weirdly vulnerable, and like I'm being dissected, even if that isn’t the case. Call me weird, but I don't enjoy feeling my stomach clench and my shoulders tense.
Beforehand my anxiety means that I frantically go through the routine of visiting the person – fully dressed, wearing makeup – but with added twists like telling everyone in my house they need to stay away from the room and then frantically checking out everything that might show up behind me to make sure it looks neat enough. Then I spend a good portion of the chat wondering how many of the other people involved in it also wish we were in our comfortable pajamas, hair unbrushed or in a messy bun, no makeup, and whatever the heck we want around us.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the use of it and don't begrudge the people who love it. Professionally, sometimes it is necessary to see the other person, especially at the beginning of a relationship. Once things are established, in my mind, it can hopefully move to text-based conversation. Personally, especially now, a lot of my friends and family (especially if they live alone) are craving human contact, and in the absence of being able to get that in person, this is a great resource for them to have. For me though, the idea of video chatting comes with extra levels of anxiety and a prayer someone will cancel or at least suggest turning off the video portion of it.
There’s a down side for everyone as far as social distancing is concerned, but what that down side is will be different for each person. For some it is a hatred of being stuck at home – I happen to love that, but if you told me I could not come home and had to stay out, I would be miserable. For those who hate being stuck at home, video chatting is a lifeline. For me, the downside of being at home is the constant threat that someone is going to ask me to video chat. Would I do it, if asked? Professionally, of course. Personally? Only if I have to.
My preferred method of contact is always going to be texting or emailing. I’m the friend you have who says “if you call me, it better be an emergency” and who does everything she can to avoid making a professional call even if it will only take two minutes. But if you told me, at any point in my life prior to 2020, that I would miss phone calls because they’re starting to be replaced with an even more uncomfortable manifestation of using technology to communicate called video chatting, I would have laughed at you.
The ultimate thing to know here though is that yes, friends and colleagues and readers, I absolutely am concerned about you and I love you and I want to hear how you’re doing and what’s filling your days. I’d just prefer you text, tweeted, or emailed me about it – and don't expect me to be a regular on YouTube or Instagram Stories or Facebook Live any time soon.
Be Well. Be Safe. Stay Home.