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Who is zooming whom?

While lockdown might be driving some people crazy others are doing as much as they still can online. The face-to-face networking groups I would normally attend have now migrated onto various video-conferencing platforms. Two months ago I wasn’t even sure what Zoom was but currently I’m being asked to invite people I don’t yet know into my home. Fortunately, I have a dedicated working space but the idea of sharing it with relative strangers has unsettled me. It’s one thing to get dressed-up, apply make-up and attend an event, but at home I want to be and should be comfortable with people I know.  

Even as someone who has acted on stage many times, I still experience a fair amount of apprehension when meeting new people. Being onstage is different – there is the ‘fourth wall’ between the stage and audience that everyone in attendance observes. This line is the safety barrier that tells us where we are supposed to be and what is expected of us in our respective spaces. This does not exist in the world of video conferencing; you can see and hear everything, simultaneously there is intrusion and voyeurism which can cause immediate conflict. None of this is new of course; people have been using things like Skype and FaceTime for years, but as I think back I felt uncomfortable with it then, even with family and friends.  

What’s this apprehension about, who knows? We could be here all day trying to figure it out, although plenty of people have got extra time on their hands so please feel free to comment. Pandemic circumstances forced me into a one-to-one video conference meeting. This gave the opportunity to tentatively explore what networking might look like in a safe environment with a peer I met previously. It was important for me to present some semblance of professionalism; I dressed appropriately including some jewellery, but was happy to forgo make-up and went for it.

After initial technical difficulties on my end (another video-conferencing hazard – tech failures and not wanting to appear stupid or unknowing) we eased into a comfortable conversation that I’m sure would have been the same, if not better, in person. It was a lovely meeting, allaying business fears, acknowledging start-up struggles, powering through and accepting not everything is for everyone.

Business, the same as any other aspect of life, has some degree of performance or staging attached to it. People are different at work, driving a car, in the gym or out shopping. However, when you leave various activities behind and retreat home it’s to relax, get that frigging bra off, revel in the safety of four walls (especially now) and just be. The idea of having to share that space with relative strangers takes some of that comfort away, if only for a short while. 

Regardless of how we might feel about it and ready or not, the world is changing, taking yet another dramatic turn in recent weeks. Learning to become comfortable with new norms is the new norm. Sooner rather than later I will have to embrace video-conferencing and everything it has to offer. In the meantime, probably like everyone else, I’ll use whatever social media platforms available to stalk…er, I mean, get to know people, before I invite them into my space.                

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