There’s nothing quite like being at your absolute scrubbiest, with your hair up in the sort of messy bun that reads “I might be a witch and not the fun kind,” and getting a calendar reminder for a forgotten Zoom meeting. You’re sitting on the couch, you’re wearing some gross old T-shirt with a slogan about how much you like coffee, and you don’t feel like Making an Appearance. And yet, it’s generally considered polite to have your camera on when you join ye olde Zoom grid.
Here is a modest proposal: Let’s normalize turning off the camera in Zoom meetings. For so many reasons.
For one thing, it’s terrible for the psyche to stare at yourself so much. As Ellie Anderson writes in Forge, when we look at our own faces all day, we start to judge ourselves in unhealthy ways, to the point of losing touch with our own physical selves.
You’re Not Staring at Yourself on Zoom, You’re Judging Yourself
How that little image of your face on video chat harms your self-image through ‘self-objectification’
Plus, while it hasn’t gotten any easier to look away from ourselves onscreen, it hasn’t gotten any more fun to stare at them, either. That discomfort you’re feeling? That’s because the you you see on Zoom looks just a little bit off. The cameras on our computers aren’t great, and we’re used to seeing our faces in the mirror, not the way they appear on video. As Madison Malone Kircher writes: “Zoom face is uncomfortable because it’s not your face—or at least, not the one you’re used to seeing.”
Hating Your Face on Zoom Is the New Hating Your Voice on the Phone
The video-chat renaissance is introducing people to a new type of awkwardness
What’s that you say? You can just “hide self view” on Zoom? And/or: These reasons for going camera-free sound a touch trivial? Well, how about this excuse: Turning off your camera is also good for the planet.
That’s right. Science journalist Robert Roy Britt has some good news for the camera-shy among us: “Videoconferencing is far worse for the environment than a conventional phone call.” Britt cites a study to be published in the April issue of the journal Resources, Conservation and Recycling, noting that going audio-only can cut down the carbon footprint of a call by 96%.
For more on the environmental impact of videoconferencing, and to make yourself feel 100% better about leaving your camera off for your next meeting, read Britt’s entire article here: