Recently I found myself in a conversation with both my kids and my mother about what it’s like to participate in a class or meeting virtually. We’ve all had lots of experience with this over the past year, on Zoom, Teams, Google Meet, and just about any other platform you can think of.
Each of us shared our observations about being in this format. How do we learn best? Do we prefer to have the camera off or on? How does it feel when other people are really chatty or when they never speak? What are we missing out on? What have we accepted as the norm? What will it be like to go back, when that’s possible?
What I was left thinking is this. Every time I log onto a video call I am reminded that I’m by myself in front of my laptop. I can see the faces of my clients or my colleagues, and I’m grateful that that’s possible. But each of us is alone, sitting in our office or kitchen or bedroom, dialing in. Because we are alone, it can feel like it doesn’t matter if the camera is on, and who cares if we participate? The social pressure to at least act like we’re paying attention is gone.
But this disengagement is contagious. Each blank rectangle leads to more people turning theirs off. Each person who decides to return emails instead of engage degrades the quality of everyone’s experience. Soon there’s no reason to have held the call at all.
Each call is a chance to be intentional about why you’re there. Each call is an opportunity to listen more deeply, ask better questions, and create more of a connection than was there before. And on each call, you’re actually not alone. All these other people are there, hoping you will make a difference.