Zoom meetings, Zoom church, Zoom Christmas.
Some authorities suggest that we pare the home holiday crowd to two or three and invite the extras virtually.
It’s not a new idea. Several years ago, a gathering of friends on Thanksgiving included a Facetime session with a relative living in California. She watched us longingly a dozen of us gathered around the dinner table three time zones away.
It was a nice try at inclusion, but all we did was tantalize the poor Californian who couldn’t enjoy the turkey, dressing and pumpkin pie with us. We were having a great time, but for her, not so much.
Which brings me back to Zoom. COVID 19 is spiking. We shouldn’t pass germs around, but let’s not kid ourselves: Virtual anything is not the same thing as meeting in person. Compare a live concert to one broadcast “live.” They’re hardly identical twins.
At the same time, I know we should be happy that technology like Zoom exists. Back during the Great Influenza of 1918, all they had was party lines and a hand-crank wall phone to communicate remotely. And letters, assuming germs didn’t hitch a ride on the envelope.
The Zoom platform has rapidly moved into our lives. This year alone I’ve attended two national conventions, a state convention, hosted chapter meetings, taken workshops and attended board meetings virtually more times than I care to count. And I’m a retiree!
I’m not a Zoom fan. I cringe at the technological glitches, the pre-meeting chitchat, the unmuted mute buttons that create unearthly feedback. I’m annoyed by people who have barking dogs (such as me). those who leave TV on in the background or have family members to ramble into the Zoom room unaware.
Zoom puts our living spaces on display. Since March we’ve all become familiar with the kitchens, home offices and living rooms of TV anchors, politicians and performers. While they’re talking or singing or playing guitar, I find myself wondering why a national figures would choose to set up their laptop with their microwave in the background. Meanwhile, I check the photos and book titles on their shelves, scoping out these once-private quarters thrust into the public eye.
Along the way, I’ve learned a few tricks of the Zoom trade. For example, if you don’t use the video feature, it doesn’t matter if you’re still in your bathrobe or having a bad hair day. You can eat oatmeal, chew bubble gum, do needlepoint without anyone being the wiser. If you use a mobile device, you can dust the entire house while others think you’re glued to your computer. Shhh. Don’t tell anybody.
Zoom does save time and gas. It frees us from worrying about rain gear and parking places. It allows us to multitask. It permits us to be there without being there.
I know Zoom isn’t going away. COVID aside, it saves way too much time and money. Still, Zoom bothers me because it frees us from one another, and that may be a habit we cannot shake.