As logging onto popular video chat platforms to connect with colleagues, family and friends has become the new normal amid the pandemic, Stanford University researchers have identified four consequences of prolonged video chats that can contribute to the feeling commonly known as "Zoom fatigue."
According to the study, four primary reasons why video chats fatigue humans are -- excessive amounts of close-up eye contact is highly intense, seeing yourself during video chats constantly in real-time is fatiguing, video chats dramatically reduce our usual mobility and the cognitive load is much higher in video chats.
Just as "Googling" is something akin to any web search, the term "Zooming" has become ubiquitous and a generic verb to replace videoconferencing.
Prompted by the recent boom in videoconferencing, communication Professor Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL), examined the psychological consequences of spending hours per day on these platforms.
In the study, published in the journal Technology, Mind and Behavior, Bailenson assessed Zoom on its individual technical aspects.
He has identified four consequences of prolonged video chats that he says contribute to the feeling commonly known as "Zoom fatigue."
"Videoconferencing is a good thing for remote communication, but just think about the medium - just because you can use video doesn't mean you have to," Bailenson said.
Both the amount of eye contact we engage in on video chats, as well as the size of faces on screens is unnatural, according to the study.
"Social anxiety of public speaking is one of the biggest phobias that exists in our population," Bailenson said.
"When you're standing up there and everybody's staring at you, that's a stressful experience."
Another source of stress is that, depending on your monitor size and whether you're using an external monitor, faces on videoconferencing calls can appear too large for comfort.
When someone's face is that close to ours in real life, our brains interpret it as an intense situation that is either going to lead to mating or to conflict.
"What's happening, in effect, when you're using Zoom for many, many hours is you are in this hyper-aroused state," Bailenson said.
Until the platforms change their interface, Bailenson recommends taking Zoom out of the full-screen option and reducing the size of the Zoom window relative to the monitor to minimise face size, and to use an external keyboard to allow an increase in the personal space bubble between oneself and the grid.
Bailenson also cited studies showing that when you see a reflection of yourself, you are more critical of yourself.
Many of us are now seeing ourselves on video chats for many hours every day.
"It's taxing on us. It's stressful. And there's lots of research showing that there are negative emotional consequences to seeing yourself in a mirror."
Bailenson recommends that platforms change the default practice of beaming the video to both self and others, when it only needs to be sent to others.
In the meantime, users should use the "hide self-view" button, which one can access by right-clicking their own photo, once they see their face is framed properly in the video.