I have twenty-two Zoom meetings this week and have begun Zooming with family and friends, as many of you have. My grandson now Zooms with his teacher and classmates. He’s in kindergarten.
Overnight, Zoom has changed our world and we have taken to it like a dog to a fire hydrant, which is to say with eager abandon if not exactly a leg raised. In adapting to the technology, particularly during quarantine, some surprising things have happened.
For one, we have reimagined work. You can now attend meetings from bed, unshaven, or with that same dog on your lap. You could even do all three if you wanted. If you have to be more formal, say, for a job interview, you could wear a jacket and tie, but pants are definitely optional. Just don’t get up once the interview starts to adjust the lighting.
We also have learned more about personal branding than we ever thought possible, or desired. Virtual backgrounds are good for that. I can’t tell you how many hours I have spent choosing a photo for a backdrop. I’ve learned a few things along the way. You want to avoid backgrounds that are distracting, including those with a lot of people, copulating animals, or anything from Las Vegas. The last two may be redundant, but you catch my drift.
I enjoy the informality Zoom brings to the workplace. I’m not sure you can call it a “workplace” anymore. Informality allows people to be more creative and individualistic. That’s a good thing if you are concerned about employee happiness and finding meaning in work. And who isn’t?
But, as you can image, there is a downside to all of this Zooming, and it has to do with informality. For instance, during a Zoom call you have to wait for long periods while others speak, especially if there are a lot of people on the call, and then, boom, you’re on. You wait and wait and then suddenly you’re on. As they say on Twitter, “Wait for it…” This process repeats itself until you are exhausted. God help the introverts among us.
I call this the “Zoom boom effect” (aka ZBE), not to be confused with Zoom bombing. Interestingly, it is related to informality, because informality lulls you into a false sense of security. That is, it’s hard to be on guard while you’re lying in bed, propped up with pillows, half asleep. But then it hits–boom!
The net effect of ZBE (aka NEZBE) is an increase in the boredom and anxiety levels of those on the call. I’m sure somebody in a lab coat will confirm this soon enough. When these levels alternate with increasing frequency and intensity, over time the people you meet with regularly will become “Zoombies.” You can’t sustain cycles of on again-off again for very long without the faculties shutting down to protect both body and soul. It’s inevitable.
You can spot Zoombies easily enough by their glazed-over eyes, slow-moving gestures, and general state of lethargy. They tend to be unpredictable in their interaction on Zoom calls, going from docility one moment to agitation the next. They are, however, nearly universal in their contempt for expressions with “uncertainty,” “unprecedented,” and “challenging.”
Such contempt may have more to do with COVID-19 than an online meeting, but Zoom has done what Zoom does. It has taken the obvious and put it on a television screen for the world to see, or at least your little corner of the world. Nice, that.
The lesson here, as the Book of Leviticus reminds us, is not to spurn Zoombies. After all, they are our brothers, sisters, and colleagues. We must welcome them and help them, only afterward slapping some sense into them.
“When a Zoombie sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the Zoombie who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were Zoombies once in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God (Leviticus 19:33-34).
So, make ready. The Zoombies are coming.