How it's Impacting Dawson Students
By: Kyra Clark
Photo via nadia_snopeck Adobe Stock pictures
According to Zoom founder Eric S. Yuan, the maximum number of daily meeting participants on the platform increased from 10 million in December 2019 to 200 million in March 2020. Any Dawson student could tell you how challenging this has been for the platform’s servers - and for their own mental health. Unfortunately, the recurrent use of Zoom in schools is causing a form of mental fatigue known as “Zoom fatigue”.
“Zoom fatigue” is described by the Psychiatric Times’ Dr. Jena Lee, a Child and Adolescent Psychiatry specialist, as “the tiredness, worry, or burnout associated with overusing virtual platforms of communication.”
Part of communication is observing non-verbal cues from those with whom we are speaking, including full-body motion, facial expressions, and eye contact. Non-verbal cues are less apparent in Zoom meetings, forcing the brain to work much harder to understand the material and catch someone’s reaction, causing “Zoom fatigue.” Jade Macevicius, second year Cinema-Communications student, says that it is especially present during breakout rooms when her group has their cameras off. “I’m a very interactive person, and I love feeding off of other people’s behaviour, so not being able to see that is very challenging.” She says participating becomes an “intimidating” experience now that she can no longer naturally connect with her classmates.
We used to experience packed hallways and exciting conversation. Today the most action a student experiences between classes on Zoom might be taking a few steps to the kitchen or washroom while they are “waiting for the host” to start the class.
According to Jessie Guo, another second year Cinema-Communications student, the lack of movement and stimulation in her environment is a contributing factor to her fatigue. She notes that, “just the teacher being there [in-person] and showing you the PowerPoint on the screen, you just stay more concentrated because of the environment.” Guo also highlights that small actions such as walking to grab a quick snack or briefly speaking with a friend between classes helped her remain “awake and in the mood” during the school day.
Rajesh Malik, Psychology professor at Dawson, agrees with Guo’s statement. “In a classroom there are all kinds of noises and shuffling around,” he says. He mentions that although someone getting up to go to the bathroom or simply throwing something in the garbage may be distracting “it takes away the fatigue.”
"The lack of movement and stimulation in her environment is a contributing factor to her fatigue."
Another factor contributing to “Zoom fatigue” is the increased sense of self awareness. Macevicius relates to this statement saying, “when my camera is on, I feel very up tight.” She explains that she compensates for her lack of body language by nodding her head and making extra facial expressions to demonstrate her engagement. This too contributes to her fatigue, as she ends the meetings feeling tense.
If you are experiencing “Zoom fatigue”, an effective way to cope is by engaging in regular physical activity. According to Dr. Lee, “physical activity is associated with about a 40% reduced risk of fatigue.” Professor Malik agrees. He further encourages students to take breaks and engage with family members at home whenever they can. He reminds people that, “human beings are made to interact socially.”
Although our current connection with classmates and teachers is temporarily restricted to the four sides of our screens, Professor Malik assures us that “we are learning important lessons from this pandemic, that the physical presence of teachers and students and interaction in real life is essential, it’s not going away, it’s definitely not going away.”