Commentary: The days of Zoom and FaceTime and Skype …Just don’t turn into a potato

Commentary: The days of Zoom and FaceTime and Skype …Just don’t turn into a potato

Ian Haysom, a veteran journalist and writer, is a news consultant for CHEK. His coronavirus diary will appear here regularly.

When the folksinger Joan Baez posted a video earlier this week, in which she sang a song for the ailing blues legend John Prine, I found myself not just being impressed by her singing voice, moved by her support for Prine, but I also thought, “wow. Nice kitchen.”

Call me shallow.

Baez, like many of us broadcasting from our homes via Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, Google Hangouts and whatever, is opening the door to her home, inviting us in. So we get a small peek into their lives.

The kitchen behind her, with rich wood, tile, a fireplace in the corner and tidy counters came straight out of  a design magazine. I want that kitchen. But it created more shallow thoughts. Does she prepare her own quinoa and kale fritters? Does she have a maid? A cleaner? A husband?

See. Shallow. Can’t help it.

Here’s the video:

Baez, being a performer, knows how to put on a show. She knows she has to get the setting just right. Just gives us a glimpse into her private life, not the whole picture.

And nowadays, as we broadcast from our offices and living rooms, there’s a certain etiquette we need to follow.

First, don’t be a potato.

The boss of a small team of workers had downloaded one of those fun filters that transform your face into something else. You can be a talking emoji. She picked a potato. The problem is she didn’t know how to turn the filter off, so she led a team meeting as Potato Head. And that’s the nickname she won’t ever lose.

Second, if you decide to go to the bathroom for a pee, remember not to take your phone with you. Someone did that on a video now doing the rounds. For the sake of decency, I won’t add the link. But the other 12 or so people on her Zoom meeting couldn’t stop laughing. And likely never will.

Also, if you are Skyping a lot, it’s important not to let yourself go. I know working from home means you don’t need to shave, do your hair, wear clean clothes, but it’s best not to go into a business meeting looking as though you’ve totally given up. Try and look respectable from the chest up. You can ignore your bottom half.

In the same vein, don’t do Skype calls when you’re drunk. It won’t be pretty. And you’ll probably get the wrong number and end up chatting with the Pope.

Also, if you’re going to appear on television via Skype, check the books behind you. I’ve found myself straining to read the titles on the books on the shelves that reporters use as a backdrop (as if any of them have ever read a book. Come on).

If you do have books there, make sure you don’t include titles such as How To Whip Yourself Into a Sexual Frenzy or How To Get Your Boss’s Job. And don’t have The Joy of Sex up there. That’s the book your parents bought and, well, you never want to imagine your parents having sex and you certainly don’t want the world to see it.

In the same vein, try not to broadcast from your bedroom. There could easily be a random dildo or some whips and chains in view. Or someone lying in the bed who’s not your wife or husband. Explain that one away.

If you’re being interviewed for television via Skype, which everyone seems to be doing nowadays, try not to position your camera beneath your left nostril. But itfyou do, make sure you trim your nose hairs.

Don’t scratch. Anything.

Don’t yawn in Zoom meetings. Especially when the boss is talking, even if he or she is a potato head. They can see you. And don’t leave the room, or put them on mute. They’ll notice.

Don’t let the kids in the room when you’re doing an important meeting. Even if they start banging on the door. Even if they start screaming. Remember that correspondent in Hong Kong whose kids walked in during a live BBC interview? It’s still funny.

Don’t get too close to the camera. I’m not sure why so many do this. They can’t all be short-sighted. They look like they’re in a horror movie, Jack Nicholson in The Shining saying Here’s Johnny.

And lastly, remember to ensure you disconnect from your work meeting or even after FaceTiming a friend. You don’t want them to hear you say “I can’t believe what a patronizing, humourless, stupid, insensitive moron he/she is.”

And if you hear me say that, it was someone else. Honest.

Read the previous diaries here:

Commentary: The Coronavirus Diaries March 18, 2020

Commentary: The Coronavirus Diaries March 19, 2020

Commentary: The Coronavirus Diaries March 20, 2020

Commentary: The Coronavirus Diaries March 22, 2020

Commentary: The Coronavirus Diaries March 23, 2020

Commentary: The Coronavirus Diaries March 24, 2020

Commentary: The Coronavirus Diaries March 25, 2020

Commentary: The Coronavirus Diaries March 26, 2020

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Commentary: Living in a virus virtual world

Commentary: No April Fools. That’s no joke

Commentary: Get ready for the long haul – and hunker down

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Ian HaysomIan Haysom

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