Op-Ed: Zoom rules – etiquette for our new reality

Op-Ed: Zoom rules - etiquette for our new reality
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Remember when we used to meet people? Face to face, handshake to handshake, sometimes hug to hug? Nowadays it’s a virtual world, and Zoom is our new hangout place.

Many have now mastered virtual communication seamlessly, even boomers, who are now somewhat proud of being Zoomer boomers. Hip? Well, artificially hip anyway.

However, many still haven’t got it quite right. Zoom is a new frontier. But like any other world, there are certain rules to abide by. Especially this Christmas, since this may be the only way you get to talk to someone outside your bubble.

Etiquette? Maybe Zoomiquette.

So here’s a simple guide.

1. Don’t eat while Zooming. The camera provides a grotesque closeup of you chomping away, and however surreptitious and polite you try to be, dabbing at the corner of your mouth with a napkin, all the other people on the call can only concentrate on your mouth and what you’re eating. Do you know how disturbing avocado toast looks from 12 inches away?. Also, don’t burp.

2. Don’t get drunk, especially if it’s a business Zoom meeting. And even if the drinks cabinet is only an arm’s length away. And even if you want to kill everyone else on the call.

3. Try and position your computer camera so your friends, family or colleagues can see your face full-on. Do not position your tablet on the table while you look down at it. All we will see are nostrils.

4. Try and get dressed. Oh, I know, some of these calls are in the early morning, but that’s no excuse to do shabby couldn’t-give-a-heck impersonations of Billy Bob Thornton or Nick Nolte. Try and shave, or comb your hair, or put on a golf shirt and look somewhat presentable. Even if you’re only wearing boxers on your bottom half.

5. Don’t just wear boxers on your bottom half. Off-camera is not necessarily off camera. Think Jeffrey Toobin and the New Yorker Zoom scandal. Actually, don’t think about it. Just, well, make an effort, but not that kind of effort.

6. Those funny avatars and cutesy backgrounds? Don’t do them. Unless you’re four years old. If you’re my grandchildren you can send me a heart emoticon, because that will always be cute. Otherwise, just do what every self-respecting journalist does when broadcasting from home and sit in front of a bookcase filled with impressive books that you will never read.

7. Do not fall asleep, especially if there are 99 other people on the Zoom call.

8. Try and stay engaged. Don’t go walkabout. Don’t start playing with your dog/cat/hamster. Don’t roll your eyes, especially when I’m making a valid point. And don’t keep reading the texts on your phone every time it pings while you should be talking to me.

9. Keep Zoom calls tight and bright. We had a Zoom get-together last month that went just under the 40-minute free limit and it was fantastic because it had us all wanting more. Well, it was good for those with a short attention span anyway. Well, OK, me.

10. Do not move from your office to a car during a computer call. Last week I was part of a three-person meeting. We were in different locations. One of our three realized he had to be at a meeting in downtown Vancouver, so he took us with him – virtually – on his phone, from his office, along corridors, in the elevator, into the underground parking garage, and then – hands-free – in his car where we got to look up his nostrils as he drove through traffic. Going along for the ride was way too stressful and dizzying.

11. Do not allow children on the call. Not for longer than two minutes anyway. They don’t want to look up your nostrils, and they will always have better things to do than that blah blah blah stuff that adults like to do.

12. Adjust your lighting. Too bright and you’re a ghost. Too dark and you’re the Blair Witch Project.

13. Do not tell jokes. Unless you enjoy the sound of silence.

14. Work out your audio ahead of time. Don’t spend the first five to ten minutes of a Zoom call lip-flapping at everyone else on the call. Do not say, “I can’t hear you….let me find my earphones….I think I put them somewhere around here…..”

15. And make sure you’re on mute when you think you’re on mute, particularly if it’s an office group meeting and you turn to your wife and say “That Eddie from accounts is a total moron.”

16. And finally, in a business Zoom meeting, do not stare endlessly at Stella or Svend from human resources who is in the bottom left square and who you have always had a thing for. He or she is not looking at you. Even if their eyes follow you around the room. Do not, in a moment of reverie, whisper “I love you. I really do.” Everyone will hear you. And they will all think you love them. If that happens, snap out of your reverie and say, “I love all you people. You’re ALL fantastic. I just can’t get enough of this accounts payable symposium.”

Ian Haysom is a journalist and news consultant with CHEK-TV. His new book, Grandfathered, Dispatches from the trenches of modern Grandparenthood, is published by Heritage House.

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