Zoom in the perspective of an introvert


A student stressed over Zoom calls. Illustration by Ali Beatty

Alexis Leone, Staff Reporter

Online learning, you’ve seen many, experienced many, things revolving around this topic, and whether or not you love it or hate it is up to you. Being online for various activities can be a better alternative for those who like doing work at home in bed. But what happens when someone who isn’t as outgoing is thrown into a situation where simulating social interaction over a computer screen is a must in these times?

You’d think that as someone with a form of social anxiety, being on a screen at home where nothing could make you feel nervous for the day would be easy. There are no in-person presentations where you have to worry about ‘stage presence’ or how well you can evaluate on a topic without looking at a slide. Or, having to worry about losing a paper you were supposed to turn in because everything is now accessible through a laptop. You don’t even have to worry about wardrobe malfunctions. It does beg the question: Is it really all that easier being hidden behind fancy internet gadgets in the comfort of a desk at home rather than a public school setting? Well, from my experience so far, the review is mixed, and can only be described as bizarre, which stems from the whole social distancing fiasco. 

Zoomxiety, yes, it is a thing. Zoomxiety is a word created to describe the anxiety that comes with e-Learning. It has wreaked havoc on many, including myself. It isn’t all about the dread that comes from having to be on video calls within a handful of other quiet faces. One of the first examples of this being the increase of effort required into making presence and understanding of lessons known. Compared to a classroom setting, being online ensures that it is far more difficult for a teacher to know if a student is actually taking in information or not. Behind a closed camera or muted microphone, there isn’t much of a way of telling you are really ‘there’ unless the teacher is to see a face or hear a voice.

Participation checks are something that many try to avoid, but there is no true way around it because instructors can’t see whether we are paying attention in person. Teachers wanting more effort when they can’t see you much is understandable and most would even say, good that they are engaging with us as much as they can. At the same time, it’s nerve-wracking to us quiet kids, as there is a higher demand for us to say something in a reflection or discussion to whatever it is we are talking about. The process of having to unmute and speak for the grade and being put into dreaded breakout rooms for partner time is a nightmare. Because not only is there a worry of not speaking enough, but there are times in breakout rooms everyone else is just as lost as ourselves and there is an awkward dragged out silence.

Which brings me to another point: When the zoom meeting is too quiet, whether it’s while talking by yourself or when it’s just an instructor asking questions. There is nothing scarier than hopping on a zoom call or joining in when feeling brave and having an awkward silence to follow. And when there is nothing to follow up with what you are saying it could be pretty embarrassing. Keyword: Embarrassing. And what about the times when having a camera or microphone isn’t a worry but then you realize that there is a difference between muted and unmuted? It happens, and there are even worse moments when you realize that things can be heard in the background of your living space while you talk, like a dog barking or your mom on the phone. It’s very embarrassing, and it makes many afraid to speak up.

In conclusion, while I can agree that having a more interactive e-Learning environment is good, even for an introvert, the lack of face to face or in-person visual learning can be a bother. Some people work differently than others and may not find it as bad. Some days may be better than the ones before, and through the cons, there are a reasonable amount of pros. For instance,  online presentations aren’t nearly as bad as doing a presentation in person. You don’t have to worry about keeping yourself from pacing and in some classes, you’re not even required to have your camera on. So really, it all depends on learning style preferences. And personally, this experience has been a stressful, but neutral one.