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The Fatiguing Effects of Camera Use in Virtual Meetings [pdf] (apa.org)
148 points by vector_spaces 19 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 106 comments



I think it's because, in real life, you can tell who's looking at you and when. There's key components of body language that are based in who is paying attention to who. In a videoconference, this is all missing. You can't tell who's looking at you or not, so that mean anyone could be looking at you, so you act like everyone is looking at you all the time, you feel the need to control your presentation more, that causes fatigue.

Real-world group conversations are not like that at all. If you're tired or you have nothing to say, you can just be in a corner listening to other people speak, nobody will mind, and you don't feel observed. That's a lot more like when you have your camera off.


This happened a lot with Zoom calls for my then-four-year-old daughter's classes too. All the kids hated it because they were looking at the picture of a friend and talking to them, but the friend didn't know they were so they weren't listening to them, and they all got incredibly frustrated. As adults we can have the theoretical knowledge about how these things work, but it does cut out a lot of helpful cues.

For me, I also think the slight audio / video lag is really difficult in a similar way. It makes conversational fluency really hard, such as when you can interject, or knowing when someone has finished. It means that conversations tend to become a series of monologues, and that's a really tedious way of having a conversation.


I think there is also the cultural assumption that you could always be away doing something else when on a call remotely.

For instance, when everyone is in the same room, you’re manifesting you dedicated your time to the meeting. From there, even if participants look at their mail or do something that might not be related, or just look bored, there is some leeway given by the fact they are there in the first place.

In most remote settings, I find this leeway is way thinner, and it is less accepted to be distracted by something else, people will be apologizing in more specific ways to justify they weren’t listenning.


My manager would ask everyone would to raise their hands from keyboard randomly in a half-joking manner... to ensure everyone is focusing to the meeting, and not working.

or, point out "hey you have something else on screen because white screenlight flashed on your face"

Leaving this company in a month, although they're paying me 2x the local average SE salary here in Sweden.


While calling it out like that is crass, I do wish people wouldn't do other things during meetings. I get that these meetings are presumably over-long, but perhaps that's because half the participants aren't actually paying attention...


Having %100 attention of all participants is for sure an expectation to be had, in an ideal scenario where meetings are organized in an ideal configuration of members/agenda/duration.

But if you invite everyone to every meeting, have no agenda, and have awkward silences in the meeting you called while trying to come up with stuff to talk about... then surely people will try to get some work done in parallel.


There is an optimum somewhere on the line.

Even if you have 5 people for 30 min on the call, it's totally understandable that one or two of them find it mildly boring but here and there relevant. For instance they are expert in one of the field touched by your project and they sometimes need to react.

In your ideal state, the choice is for them to leave the meeting altogether and find something else they can focus more on, or to focus 100% on the meeting and spend half of their time religiously listening to stuff they don't really need to hear.

In my experience the result of the second choice is people being more and more reticent to come to meetings, not just because of some hypothetical time lost, but because it's mentally painful.

As an added bonus, instead of having one meeting with 5 people, you need to make 3 with only the parts each members fully care about, and eventually a few more down the line when what they each say in isolation doesn't make sense when assembled together.


There is nothing happy about working for control freaks, and slightly higher net salary won't magically turn it into a good place to work... sounds like a good idea to depart


2x is not "slightly". You can see it as the amount of premium an employer has to pay to get away with things like that.

A well-prepared meeting is fast-paced and keeps everyone genuinely involved.


> You can't tell who's looking at you or not, so that mean anyone could be looking at you, so you act like everyone is looking at you all the time, you feel the need to control your presentation more,

so you keep staring at your own image, which means everyone is staring at their own image, which means no one is looking at your image, which means you don’t need to care what you look like,


It's the Panopticon effect. It doesn't matter if there's somebody looking, what matters is that there may be, and you can't know.


This is why I almost always minimize my own video on my screen. Just seeing myself makes me really self conscious.


Unless I’m presenting or speaking for more than an interjection, I generally turn off the sending of video. There’s little value (IMO) in 320p/720p low bitrate “facial expressions” which are just as often compression artifacts as they are information about emotional state.

Maybe once video calls are routinely 1080p/2160p it will matter more, but 320p (the default for most systems today) at a low bitrate isn’t really doing much. You might as well shut it off unless you’re leading the meeting at that moment.

Contrariwise, when you are speaking/presenting, use an external camera (the one in your laptop/ipad/phone is optimized for thickness and thus the lens sucks) and a good soft key light.


> Contrariwise, when you are speaking/presenting, use an external camera (the one in your laptop/ipad/phone is optimized for thickness and thus the lens sucks) and a good soft key light.

I recently did a fair bit of research into this exact setup and landed on a Logitech StreamCam and a Elgato Key Light.

Well worth the money if you’re interested in achieving a high consumer grade level of quality, just be sure to purchase an adapter for the StreamCam as it is (infuriatingly) wired with a USB C connector.


I find it infuriating when things still use old, non-reversible USB. Everything I plug my Logitech 4K camera into has USB-C ports.


That’s fair, but for something like a 1080 webcam used by amateur streamers, USBC seems like a poor choice. Perhaps there’s a bandwidth issue I’m missing.


720 is the default for Google Meet and gives a decent quality picture imo. There's definitely value in seeing others at that resolution - the restricting factor is people's unreliable or narrow bandwidth internet connection.


AIUI, Meet defaults to 320 unless you bump the quality up manually to 720.

There is no option for 1080, much less 2160.


also why I don't like seeing pictures of people everywhere (e.g. Outlook, WebEx), especially myself. It's not really useful information and only distracting. At least give us an option if we want to see all this stuff (in Outlook it's possible to hide profile pictures, in WebEx it's not).


I don't do video calls, but my partner does them often for work. The other day she mentioned that you're able to see who is looking at your video feed because their eyes looks directly at you (akin to them looking into the webcam).

I'm not sure if she was mistaken, or if there's some kind of eye tracking/image processing stuff going on to do this. FYI it was Microsoft Teams.


Not at all true. For that to work, there would have to be, yes, eye tracking and a lot of image processing to change where your gaze appeared to be, but also knowledge of the physical size of the screen, the location of that particular person's feed on the screen, and where the screen is in relation to the camera. Now, it's possible that a lot of that could be inferred if it's assumed the screen is not moved in relation to the camera, and a lot of work went into tracking window locations even as you move things around, but that's a LOT of effort to expend for such a minor feature (let alone the uncanny valley effect if you don't get the image processing perfect, including the transitional "eye moved from the document you were looking at, to looking at them" - the software would have to somehow note that rather than just looking over an inch, you actually looked up 7 inches, and render that realistically).

Easiest way to confirm this is not true, though (rather than just describe the challenge involved) - have a Zoom/Teams/whatever call 1-on-1. As you're talking to the person, and they're talking back to you, note where their eyes are. 95% of the time they're going to be below where your eyes would "meet", i.e., the camera is at the top of their monitor/laptop, and they're looking at you on screen. In fact, I've had some people -never- 'meet' my gaze, because they never become self-aware enough to "oh, I should look at my camera when I am talking".


> In fact, I've had some people -never- 'meet' my gaze, because they never become self-aware enough to "oh, I should look at my camera when I am talking".

I'm not sure that looking into the camera is that important in a one-to-one setting. I'm specifically not talking about a "broadcast", like when you address an assembly and the communication is expected to go both ways.

To me, the reason why we look at a person when talking together is to see their reactions, and for them to see ours. Even in real life, and in particular when we speak, we don't look at the other person's eyes 100% of the time.

So in the case of video chat, where the "eyes" (the camera) is completely separate from the face, looking into the eyes cuts you off from their reaction, as you'll only see it in your peripheral vision. However, even if you see their eyes never meet yours, you're able to infer whether they're looking at your video or reading something else. And the most important part, their reactions, is still there.

To me, the whole point of video chat, as opposed to a phone call, is to have this additional channel of communication. If you're not looking at the person with whom you're talking, you might as well not use video at all.


Yeah, I didn't mean to imply looking at the camera to meet the person's gaze is the "right" thing to do, or expected, or any such thing. Just that I've had times where I've thought "My video shows me looking down; I should probably look at the camera to give the appearance of eye contact".


This video shows a project to create a one-way mirror that allows a person to view their monitor while 'looking at' the camera.

https://youtu.be/2AecAXinars

If I was planning to do any interviews I would definitely build and use this.

It also makes me wonder, when people are staring into the camera if they are looking at a photo instead of the camera lens.


This doesn't even account for the number of people who have multimonitor setups and no particular connection between camera position and where the call window might be.


> oh, I should look at my camera when I am talking

I'm not a really outgoing person but when I talk in real life I'm one of those people who tend to look into someone's eyes a lot when talking and listening, probably 97% eye contact from my end if I had to guess. It feels very weird not to do this but looking into the webcam is much worse for me because you can't see the other person at the same time.

I haven't figured out why I prefer eye contact, but I wonder if it has to do with being able to see what the other person is doing and how they're reacting to the conversation. You can pick up a lot of information when looking at someone's face.


Basic reasoning will tell you that people who “look at you” during a video call are actually people who look at their camera.


Looking at it from the other way round, putting the active window (whatever it is) right below the camera makes the other side feel like getting attention.

Making the window small enough to not generate much eye movement when scrolling around is a refinement.


[flagged]


What is "psychopathic" about taking other people into account when using video conferencing?


I know this is something Apple FaceTime does. I recently noticed that when I looked at myself during a video call it looked like I was making direct eye contact, whereas when I looked at the camera it looked like I was looking away. I thought maybe I was imagining things but I found this article to back it up: https://www.fastcompany.com/90372724/welcome-to-post-reality...

There’s also a video where someone shows how your eyes get distorted to cause the effect, but I can’t find it right now.


That’s not a feature of Teams. I know Microsoft had been testing processing eyes so that it looks like you’re straight into the camera, but no there’s no reliable way to do that based on who’s feed you’re watching.


Some Sony still cameras have sometimes done funny things with the eyes. A friend bought one in Japan which made the eyes of any subject larger. I can’t seem to find anything online about it, but it was very strange before you realised.


Magnifying eyes is common on Purikura machine in Japan. Some cameras including smartphones implement similar feature. I believe all camera have plain shoot mode.


How would this work when the call has many people on it?

And poor her - big Teams meeting are actually awful and large meeting with it are not good.

A lot of my team members were in Australia which appears to have dismal internet, a terrible connection to New Zealand, or both.


That only works if they are on a laptop.

I work off a desktop with two 28" monitors and my camera sits above them in the center, and the meeting has to be on the left monitor or the right monitor, not straddling the middle, so you will never get that feeling of me looking directly at you.

I am, however, thinking of making something that deepfakes the perspective change correctly.


Or, you know, move your camera 14 inches to one side or the other.


Won't do much, it still looks at me from above because the monitor is so big.


Well, don't deepfake it. Strap a big long selfie stick to your head and hang the camera in front of your face :-)

I have two different setups, one with a laptop that has an external monitor; one that is my tower with two monitors. On both, the camera is basically over the monitor I use for video conferencing. I don't care if somebody notices me staring at the other monitor - it's no worse than staring at the desk during a face-to-face meeting while somebody else is talking.


I am, however, thinking of making something that deepfakes the perspective change correctly.

Or you could, you know, move the camera. I keep mine centered on top of my main monitor.


Anecdotal, and I don't want it to sound like my example is intended to disprove this research or anyone else's experience, but I personally find it extremely fatiguing if people _don't_ turn on their video.

More specifically, when I'm talking in a meeting or giving a presentation, I find it very helpful to see other people, see their reactions, see whether they laugh at jokes or look confused when I'm bad at explaining things. My nightmare during remote work is giving a presentation to a silent wall of "camera off" icons.


I've worked from home for a decade now, and I've found the people who want cameras on in meetings are the folks who don't normally work remote. They're not used to not seeing reactions, so it throws them when nobody has a camera on. The people who have worked remote for a while - at least since before covid - don't ever use their camera.


Having worked remotely before and since Covid, I prefer to at least keep my camera on. I think it makes me more approachable... as approachable as can be expected anyway.

I've also been in large meetings where everyone has the camera off - it doesn't bother me, but given a choice between not seeing people and seeing people, I would choose seeing people.


I have worked remote as freelance many years, and I just use the camera as a reciprocity tool, if you have your camera on, then I'll turn mine on, if yours is off, then I won't bother with it and I have no issue/lots of experience working/talking without the camera


It's not even about home office work necessarily, it's about whether there's a long-term culture of having remote conversation. The company I work for is old by tech standards, and has always had fairly distributed offices. People there have been doing remote conferencing long before video conferences were a thing, and the culture is a bit mixed but leaning heavily towards not turning on video.


Excellent point


I've worked remote for over a decade and our company has never used video, only audio. This year we used it in lieu of our yearly in-person get-together, and outside of the first 5 minutes of "long time no see" at least for me it added nothing to the actual meeting. For instance, I like to pace around the room during meetings to help think and with video that's just awkward.


Same here. Video meetings used to be the exception but since last year it is rare that anyone uses sound only meetings. One thing that annoys me with video is that I try really hard to look directly into the camera but fail miserably and instead keep checking my image as if it was a mirror :)


I've been remote a long time -- see my other comment uptopic -- and part of my job involves long workshops for training or configuration. I absolutely agree some aspects of this would be easier in person, but I do NOT think they'd be easier with cameras on, because mostly when these workshops are happening the screen is dominated by either a presentation or someone's shared screen so we can work together. A column of postage-stamp sized faces isn't going to help with engagement-measurement.

I did a lot of in-person presentations before, and one thing I had to learn is that remote facilitation/presentation is a different skill. You figure out other ways to discern who's keeping up, e.g.


This is true and also something we eventually get used to I think.

I've seen the same flow happening IRL, where people new to the team expected a somewhat responsive crowd when they present, just to be met with a wall of laptop screens and inscrutable faces when the time comes.

To be clear the people in the room were paying attention, and effectively cross checking info and exploring the points they wanted to focus on. They just didn't give any feedback to the presenter until the end of the presentation, when it's time to discuss the details.

It can be seen as socially rude, but to us it was really efficient: instead of telling the presenter we'll give feedback another time, at the end of the presentation we already had a rough opinion with a modicum of confidence in the numbers or facts to discuss. Doing all of that checking before the meeting is another way to do it, but honestly I'm not sure it's much better.


I can echo OP - have given a lot of presentations over the past year to blank screens. I used to enjoy presenting and thought it was one of my strengths, now I end every presentation with that sinking feeling like I bombed. Maybe I just need the feedback, but I also feel like I can tailor the presentation to the audience better if I pick up on body language in person. For example I may quickly gloss over a slide or spend ten minutes explaining the background depending on how the audience is keeping up.


I feel for you. I don't know if there is a good equivalent nowadays to the feedback you got.

When it comes to low stakes, wide range presentations, an approximation I've seen was a side "reaction" channel on Slack or Discord to share random thoughts during the presentation. It gets very memey and you need an audience that is used to random chats, but there is an actual feeling of back and forth between the presenter and the audience. You'll see emojis and reaction gifs flying around when people get engaged, questions that you can scoop along the way or keep for the Q&A section afterward, etc.


> Anecdotal, and I don't want it to sound like my example is intended to disprove this research or anyone else's experience, but I personally find it extremely fatiguing if people _don't_ turn on their video.

Both can be true right? This study just studied the effect of persons own camera while participating. However, it doesn't really say much about how turning off camera affects other participants that are now left without the visual feedback.


Fair point - I was being careful with phrasing because I have a pet peeve about people trying to disprove research with anecdotes, but you're right that this is a somewhat different scenario.

Indeed, supposing that both this research and my anecdote are valid, it'd be a rather unfortunate asymmetry in remote work, a fatigue issue that has no good solution which doesn't require one of the participants to compromise.


We've had a couple people prove at work that you can prerecord your presentation, force-mute everyone using the mod tools, and then play it back and they'll never realize it was a recording unless you're showing your background on it.

(I'm not very dependent on human social anything, so I don't really know how to speak to the rest of it, sorry.)


You don't know if the look at something else and listen to you at all. If there are boring meetings it's quite common for people to use split screen or a second computer and browse something or read and vaguely paying attention. For this reason we decided to not bother with cameras.


How about "The Fatiguing Effects of In-Person Meetings"?

> popular press discussion of virtual meeting fatigue (i.e.,“Zoom fatigue”), described as a feeling of being drained and lacking energy following a day of virtual meetings.

I am sure I am not the only person to have felt the effects of so-called 'meeting fatigue', being drained and lacking in energy following a day of sitting in meetings in person.

This piece reminds me of several 'The impact of working from home' pieces that seem to assume two states exist, working from home or doing nothing.

Yes working from home has had an impact, but so did waking up at 5am and standing on a packed commuter train for 45 minutes, before wedging into an uncomfortable fluorescent cubicle for 8 hours, making sure you were 'seen', before turning around and packing into the train with the same people from the morning all over again.

If you are in 'zoom meetings' back to back all day then I assume pre covid / wfh you either were in 'in-person meetings' back to back all day or have inserted a large number of additional meetings that did not exist before.


True, this is often compared to the "traditional" way off physical meetings without reflecting that they can laso be seen as an alternative to something else istead of being something like the baseline.

And there actually is meeting fatigue caused by often badly ventilated meeting rooms.


https://www.forbes.com/sites/markmurphy/2019/03/21/all-that-... (just as a reference for that last point)


Thanks


Yes, meetings are awful whether in person or remote, but for me, the remote ones are worse.


From the abstract:

“[W]e propose and test a model where study condition (camera on versus off) was linked to daily feelings of fatigue; daily fatigue, in turn, was presumed to relate negatively to voice and engagement during virtual meetings. We further predict that gender and organizational tenure will moderate this relationship such that using a camera during virtual meetings will be more fatiguing for women and newer members of the organization. Results of 1,408 daily observations from 103 employees supported our proposed model....”

I teach at a university and, since early last year, have been working exclusively from home. An interesting change has occurred in our online faculty meetings over that period. At first, when we were still getting used to videoconferencing, most meetings were conducted with most people’s cameras on. Over time, however, more and more of the meetings have been conducted with almost everyone keeping their cameras off; in many meetings, people turn their cameras on only when they are speaking and often not even then.

When we started teaching online last April, we were told not to require students to turn on their cameras during class (out of respect for their privacy), and it seems that most classes are indeed being conducted with the students’ cameras off. I personally find that frustrating; I am not as easily able to remember students as individuals, even in small classes, when I never see their faces. (Otherwise, I don't mind online teaching at all.)

For faculty meetings, though, I haven't heard any complaints about cameras being off, and the meetings seem to be as effective online with limited video as they used to be when conducted in person.

In one-on-one conversations, both cameras are usually on. I, at least, find that works as well as in-person conversations, and I much prefer one-on-one videoconferencing to telephone conversations.


Avatars should be solution for you then, right?


Yes, avatars would help me remember students better. They would need to be usable in Zoom, as that is the platform our university has chosen for the time being.


You can add a photo to your Zoom config so that it is displayed when you talk.


at my Uni many professors require a Zoom avatar exactly for this purpose. Even if it isn't a picture of the student's face it is still useful to associate an image with them.


Several people on our team do not turn-on video during meetings. I also do not like to turn-on video for our stand-up calls - those are fact oriented and whatever I'm saying is sufficient to convey the details (one-on-one meetings would be a different scenario). Citrix on Linux seems to have issues exposing external webcams and this has worked to my advantage because once I found out about this issue, I simply presented that as the reason and for once, treatment of Linux as a second class citizen worked out to be in my favour.


> treatment of Linux as a second class citizen worked out to be in my favour.

I don't know if being able to "get away with" not turning on your video is really in your favor. I am probably rare in this, but probably every month I end up seeing that someone is visibly stressed/exhausted on a Zoom, ask them about it and we usually end up talking about it and solving it.

Like "holly shit noisy_boy, you look really tired - everything OK?" could give you a chance to open up about your concerns about your work or family stress that would otherwise never come up in a factual update, and as a manager, there's a TON I can help with once I am aware.

To be fair I am probably in a minority of people who look for this kind of thing but just pointing out "hiding" isn't always good.


I hope you save comments like that for 1:1, clearly it is overstepping for a standup...


> I hope you save comments like that for 1:1, clearly it is overstepping for a standup...

It depends on the person, team, and situation. Obviously there are more sensitive contexts where discretion is needed.

When I don't think that's necessary, I err on the side of just asking. I want my team to do this to each other too.


yes. 95% of meetings at my office do not ask for video. one day the manager joked: "anyone who wants other parties to turn on video , should inform atleast a two hours in advance. we need to shave, find an ironed shirt and put it on, make arrangements for kids / pets to stay outside of the room."


Yes, this, absolutely, and unironically.

I'm still working on training people to give two hours notice in general for meetings, and some brief sketch of an agenda, so that it feels less like an ambush.


It feels like there are far too few controls on this study for anything other than "more research is required" conclusions.

Notably:

1. Did fatigued and non-fatigued users participate in the same style of camera display? Were they held in presentation, face to face, or "Brady Bunch" mode? Did users have self-view on, shrunk, or off?

2. Of the 100ish participants selected, where is the control group who received no guidance on when to turn cameras on or off? Do they have a similar variation in fatigue between genders and weeks?

3. It seems odd that the gender variance in fatigue was selected for review and the managerial / employee division was not. Given that 45% of the sample was supervisory this would have been a useful element to understand. One would normally expect that supervisors will be less fatigued by video camera use as it may be their policy, or they may have more experience.

A related take on the topic (albeit without a field experiment) can be found at https://tmb.apaopen.org/pub/nonverbal-overload/release/2


I have worked at home, or as a high-travel person, for almost 20 years. It started when I hung my own shingle out after the dot-com crash, and then continued into two small firms.

The first one folded in 2007, but I've been with the second one since then (so, 14 years this month). Both firms had geographically diverse teams, and neither have any office space anywhere.

Until about 10 years ago, I did a lot of client-facing travel. Then, all of a sudden (seemingly), that stopped. In retrospect I think it was because in-person visits for our work (implementation of our project management system with large-scale customers) really does not need it. What you need is time with us so we can help you configure, and train you, and troubleshoot with you, etc -- and that works GREAT over GoToMeeting (or WebEx or whatever you prefer).

If you want us on site, you're paying for WAY more hours, plus you're paying for flights, hotels, meals, rental cars, etc. AND if we have to go to you, we can't do other work for other customers while we're in your office, which makes US less efficient, so the telepresence approach is a big win on both sides.

*We have never ever ever turns on cameras* as part of this work. This was true before COVID, because they were not a value-add at all. This is especially true during COVID when so many are working with home-grade internet packages with really crappy upload speeds. The video sabotages the audio and screensharing, and brings nothing useful in return, at least for us.

I'm waiting for the rest of the economy to realize this. Several of our customer parties are in organizations that have decided YOU MUST TURN ON YOUR CAMERA or whatever, and we occasionally get questions about our refusal. As vendors, though, we're in a position to just say no.


Why — though in the early days of interlace's internetted teleputers that operated off largely the same fiber-digital grid as the phone companies, the advent of video-telephoning (a.k.a. 'videophony') enjoyed an interval of huge consumer popularity — callers thrilled at the idea of phone-interfacing both aurally and facially (the little first-generation phone-video cameras being too crude and narrow-apertured for anything much more than facial close-ups) on first- generation teleputers that at that time were little more than high-tech tv sets, though of course they had that little 'intelligent-agent' homuncular icon that would appear at the lower-right of a broadcast/cable program and tell you the time and temperature outside or remind you to take your blood-pressure medication or alert you to a particularly compelling entertainment-option now coming up on channel like 491 or something, or of course now alerting you to an incoming video-phone call and then tap-dancing with a little iconic straw boater and cane just under a menu of possible options for response, and callers did love their little homuncular icons — but Why, within like 16 months or 5 sales quarters, the tumescent demand curve for 'videophony' suddenly collapsed like a kicked tent, so that, by the year of the depend adult undergarment, fewer than 10% of all private telephone communications utilized any video-image-fiber data-transfers or coincident products and services, the average u.s. phone-user deciding that s/he actually preferred the retrograde old low-tech bell-era voice-only telephonic interface after all, a preferential about-face that cost a good many precipitant video-telephony-related entrepreneurs their shirts, plus destabilizing two highly respected mutual funds that had ground-floored heavily in video-phone technology, andvery nearly wiping out the maryland state employees' retirement system's freddie-mac fund, a fund whose administrator's mistress's brother had been an almost manically precipitant video-phone-technology entrepreneur . . . and but so why the abrupt consumer retreat back to good old voice-only telephoning?

The answer, in a kind of trivalent nutshell, is: (1) emotional stress, (2) physical vanity, (3) a certain queer kind of self- obliterating logic in the microeconomics of consumer high-tech.


One of David Foster Wallace’s many prescient musings. It’s a snippet from Infinite Jest, for those curious. Truly a fantastic novel. Clearly I’ve read his books too often though, because even without the telltale reference to interlace I would have picked that up as his writing in a sentence or two.


I’ve only read part of the IJ once and still recognized it. Very peculiar book.


Came here to post this and glad I was beaten to it. While the prediction of video conferencing isn’t that wild (in the same way that Kubrick predicting tablets in 2001 isn’t that wild), the user anxiety that led to the mask/face filter industry was really genius.


Maybe this is a cultural thing? My girlfriend is Chinese and I've never seen her do a "call" that wasn't actually a video call on WeChat. Japan also has had video calling for much longer than it took Apple to popularize FaceTime over here in the West. They were also ahead on VoD, for long train rides, I suppose, due to mass transit being more popular.


While テレビ電話 may have been a fad, in my 12 years in Japan I almost never used it, nor did anyone I know use it on a regular basis.

(Unrelated, I think LINE completely took over the whole "communication market" and now people are addicted to async conversations)


Related, the LINE app that everyone uses in Japan can do video calls too, and that's barely used.


Asia has long been ahead of the West in video formats, and audio. Most of those formats were made there, so it stands to reason. What is curious is why it took so long to get popular in the West.


What do you mean with "most of those formats were made there"? The only thing I can think of is early digital video camera codecs. Even when these were created, MPEG-1 and H.261 had been around for years.


I believe what we're witnessing here is a battle between the fashions of a time gone by overlapping with the fashions (and expectations) of a newer generation growing up with "asynchronous everything"

There was a time when you were paid to "be present" physically. ie, fill the seat in a room where discussions happened, however meaningful (or not) your contribution to the matter at hand. Time and technology changed and productivity of an individual, especially in CS disciplines far out grew expectations of organizational structure.

This is opinion only, but in this day and age, having meetings where there are a LOT of people talking and you're not an active participant seems to me an indication of skewed expectations of presence. You don't need to have your camera on all the time if your contribution to the meeting is simply saying nothing or even saying a few lines in the middle of an hour long discussion.

Maybe we need to stop thinking that "Virtual meetings" are simply digital manifestations of what people used to do in real life. The world has changed significantly and we are still doing what people did decades ago, only in newer ways and calling it progress. People "online" have vastly different presence than ones stuck in a physical room and can multi task . . walk in a park, do the dishes, play a video game on the couch and still participate constructively if the requirement is simple passive participation in a discussion (Which most meetings today seem to be)

I'd say we need a deeper probe into these thieves of productive time where people simply fill calendars with blocks of time or send of hundreds of emails a month with very little progress to show for it and dig into how we optimize that for all of humanities benefit.


I find it a bit amusing, and a bit tiring, how our body language and emotive faces have instantly reacted to network drops and lags; at your next meeting watch how vigorously your teammates nod, and how wide they smile, and how much teeth they show, so that the faintest smirk will be remembered.


On that note, I've noticed that the height at which my hands are doing gestures has changed to accommodate my work laptop's webcam...


What I find fatiguing when doing a whole-day of meetings remote compared to in person, is that there is no small-talk, no breaks where you get to know the others etc. Just business for X hours straight.


My approach to this -- and I get that it comes from a position of privilege -- is that I encourage (well, almost enforce, or insist on) a bit of small-talk and socialization at the beginnings of all my meetings.

I can do this because I'm almost always leading or facilitating, and quite often I meet with the same set of people several times a week for several weeks, so I get some sense of their personal lives. "How was your daughter's birthday?" or whatever goes a long way to normalizing the interaction, creating a sort of soft-space for chat, and keeping it from being wall-to-wall business.


> I encourage (well, almost enforce, or insist on) a bit of small-talk and socialization at the beginnings of all my meetings.

We have an executive who insists on doing this, too, and it's universally hated. You can't force small talk, and when he does, it just makes things awkward for everyone.

It's even worse when he tries to force the issue by singling someone out with a small-talky question like your example "How was your daugher's birthday". The person being singled out is then in the hotseat and the discomfort in their voice while they scramble to come up with an answer is palpable. It's like being put on public display.


I should be clear that I'm not like, putting this on the agenda.

Client workshops are usually relatively small -- say, 4 to 8 people. Training classes are bigger, but usually no more than a dozen or so because it gets unwieldy.

I make sure I open the meeting a little early, and as people trickle in I make small talk. As more people join, this grows organically. I'm typically going to be working with a given set of people for weeks or months, so it's not at all weird to have these conversations, and we absolutely would be having them if we were in person.

>It's even worse when he tries to force the issue

I am not a moron, nor am I interested in making anyone uncomfortable, so the idea that I would use this approach to try and force someone to answer a given question when they're not interested in interacting is ludicrous. This isn't how normal humans operate.


I wasn't accusing you of doing as this exec does, honest. I was just pointing out that we have an exec (the CEO, unfortunately) who is coming from the same place as you are, but is doing it in a way that puts everyone on guard and makes meetings even more uncomfortable than they otherwise would be.


Ah, ok.

It's worth noting that the CEO is operating from a position that I absolutely do not have: everyone in that room works for him. I'm always an outside consultant. Nobody in the rooms I lead reports to me, so there's nothing loaded about making small talk.

I have definitely seen management, and in particular upper management, fail to realize how alienating a faux just-folks presentation can be.


Yeah, the problem is when it's like 5-6+ people in the meeting. A round around the "table" feels forced. But normally it would be groups of 2-3 chatting by themselves before the meeting really starts, that is lost when remote and everyone hears everyone and there can only be 1 conversation.


bit of a different perspective, but I simultaneously believe: a) Video is draining, like this study (and all the anecdotes in comments) attest to; b) You need video at least a majority of the time to maintain any type of human relationship with people in a remote environment.

Maybe the problem isn't the video, but an abundance of meetings. Fewer meetings = less fatigue!


One thing I find that's different is that it's harder to do simple stuff like go to the toilet on the video call.

When I used to be in a physical meeting, I'd get up and leave the room if there was a lull in conversation, it signaled I had left.

On a zoom call, you could go to the toilet with your headphones or whatever, but it's harder to get a gap in conversation (there's always a speaker), and I don't like to trust mute with a poop.


A few people on my team use virtual backgrounds that say “be right back”. You can set your background to that if you need to step away from your computer. Some add little emojis (like brewing coffee) or other things to personalize it.


We simply don't use cameras. Sometimes a person would turn it on to show something, but that's it. There is absolutely no need to be visible at all times.


I have anxiety about being on camera, it’s like a public speaking skill set. There’s also environmental concerns (can they see the underwear on the floor?) that can creep in to distract away from what is important (not my face!). Video of my face is exhausting. I’m not a paid actor, and I’m not a YouTube star with a studio. Over time, I have found ways to feel better about being on camera, and that’s bern the acquisition of streamer-grade equipment where I can control to zoom and focus and contrast etc and punch the colors and film grain up to distracting levels. I want my video to distract you! Not me, so yeah I will tune it up so I’ve turned my face into purple chunky vasoline and now it’s your problem to think through, and not so much mine. Hope that helps! (Leave me alone with the camera FFS)


Our (large French telco) remote practice, inherited from when we switched to flex office a couple of years before COVID: almost never video but almost always screen sharing. I feel that screen sharing is a much more productive use of screen real estate !


At this point I only turn my camera on for 1:1 meetings. It's distracting and useless for larger groups. Even in 1:1s I hate being unable to actually make eye contact, it's consistently confusing.


In my workplace, use of the camera for Zoom meetings is optional, and 100% of everyone opts not to. I think it makes things much better.

Not as good as not having Zoom meetings at all, but still, it's better.


Virtual meetings are usually much shorter, so in my experience a lot less fatiguing than IRL meetings (especially if I have to drive somewhere). Long meetings, virtual or in meatspace are always fatiguing. And they're very unnecessary almost all of the time.

But I prefer it when people have their camera on, that way I can tell whether or not they're engaged or not. And because of this 'being watched' effect meetings tend to be shorter.


Oh, man, you're lucky!

Not only are our virtual meetings no shorter than the old in-person ones, but we get to have a lot more of them, too!


I've been advocating for voice-only calls for remote teams for years. Most people think I'm nuts. Cameras are only there to try and emulate an office environment. But the effect they have on employee flexibility and meeting style is profound.

Once you turn the camera on you need to dress as if you're in the office, even though you're at home. You need to design your camera background to look professional i.e. emulate the office, even though it's your home. Your partner, kids or guests don't get to walk through the room anymore without creating anxiety in you - even thought it's your home.

Voice only? It's a different world. You can dress the way you'd dress at home. You can have family and friends walking by without an issue. You don't have to turn your home into some kind of stage that pretends to be an office.

But voice has even greater benefits: It's lower bandwidth so you can travel more freely. You can use push to talk to mask background noise when you're on a group call. Voice also has a leveling effect among colleagues so it stops being about who is the best looking, has the nicest haircut, or the fanciest suit. It's about a purely intellectual connection with your colleagues. In that sense, voice only is a leveler and an enabler. It breaks down barriers.

At Defiant (our 38 person cybersecurity company) we've been doing voice only since we started hiring. I designed our collaboration this way because I was a fone phreak in the early 1990s (hanging out on #phreak on effnet) and I collaborated with my best friends voice only and via text on IRC, in some cases for years. So I knew going into building a software company that I could make voice-only collaboration work along with text. We started hiring and going voice only in 2015, when even the idea of remote was absurd to many companies.

Now, in 2021, we have the Fortune 5000 stumbling into remote work and doing their damndest to emulate the office environment. And the camera is a core part of that attempt to emulate. Not only does it have strong negatives, like the fatigue the study mentions, but it also doesn't take advantage of the benefits of voice-only and having a truly intellectual, relaxed, and collaborative environment between remote colleagues.

We use Teamspeak for our big team calls with PTT enabled which is a game changer for noisy environments. And we use mostly slack calls for one on one or small groups.


As an autistic person, I think this is a useful lesson for the neurotypical population on what we go through in daily life. Zoom fatigue seems to be very much like the social fatigue aspies tend to experience - where non-verbal cues are scrambled and hard to interpret to the point you spend a large amount of mental energy to try to compensate.

Welcome to our world, "normies" :-).


I personally don't get meeting fatigue, I like a bit of human interaction that isn't my partner. I moreso don't like useless meetings or feeling a meeting is unnecessary but I'm attending to keep my superiors happy.


Now we need an investigation comparing VR meetings to flat screen meetings.

I find VR meetings much better, but it highly depends on the quality of the VR goggles and the software.

And of course you need some time to get used to VR.




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