Do You Have ‘Zoom Fatigue’ or Is It Existentially Crushing to Pretend Life Is Normal as the World Burns?

Photo: Ute Grabowsky/Photothek/Getty Images

Do you have “Zoom fatigue,” or is it emotionally and existentially crushing to have to pretend to be chipper during your company’s strategic planning meeting while hundreds of thousands of people are dying and the sky burns?

Have you had “too much screen time,” or are you being forced to sit attentively for hours at your desk, moving your mouse frequently enough to not prompt an alert by your company’s activity-tracker, while a litany of terrifying news alerts flash in the periphery of your vision?

Is your kid “too active for online learning,” or is their sympathetic nervous system flooded with an attention-destroying quantity of cortisol due to fear, confusion, and lack of agency, making it impossible for their developing brain to focus on something as inconsequential-seeming as times tables?

Is “time so weird right now,” or have you lost all sense of progression in your life because you no longer have any routine-breaking events or holidays or changes of scenery to look forward to, only the repetitive cycle of the same bland emails to write and the same virus case count graphs to watch and the same harrowing scenes of police brutality to revisit day after day?

Have you been “doomscrolling,” or is your one remaining window to the broader social word an algorithmically poisoned app where everyone is constantly broadcasting their trauma and panic, and your only means of exercising any control over an unpredictable reality is by consuming more and more of it?

Are you “keeping busy,” or have you been browbeaten into believing that any hour not put to some clear productive use is an hour you have squandered, and thus an hour that brings you closer to death, and so you must spend every free moment exercising, baking sourdough, improving your interior design, upgrading your workspace, practicing a foreign language on Duolingo, and learning how to code?

Are you “getting used to the new normal,” or are you disgusted by your own capacity to gradually sink into passive, apathetic acceptance as your work days become longer and longer, your sense of time unravels into almost complete dissociation from reality, and the dominance of fascism in America becomes increasingly impossible to escape?

Are you “doing okay, all things considered” or do you have zero freedom to let even a single negative emotion slip, lest your employer recognize that this months-long barrage of trauma has finally gotten to you, has finally caused a crack in your elaborately constructed professional mask, and that means your productivity will be dropping, or that you might be contributing to the slow, creeping burnout contagion that is sweeping throughout your workplace?

Are these “uncertain times,” or have you lost all hope for the future, or even the ability to imagine a future, and no longer have the emotional and psychological lifeline that having something to look forward to can provide, only the desperate desire to not be among the people who will suffer the most?

Or is it all of the above? I mean, it’s probably all of the above.

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