Walsh's Wonderings - Zooming

You know you’ve made it when your name becomes a verb. Uber. Photoshop. Google. And now, thanks to the enforced isolation of the coronavirus, Zoom.

A month ago, Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers thought of “Zoom” as little more than a PBS children’s show, the poor man’s Electric Company (itself the poor man’s Sesame Street). With most of us following government pleas to shutter in place, it’s also become a lifeline to the outside world. Overnight, the world is using this video conferencing app to celebrate virtual birthday parties or engage in online game nights under the isolated eye of our cell phone cameras.

Office meetings take on a whole new tenor when we don’t start off the day with a long commute or by writing our names on lunches before we hide them in the fridge. Telecommuting with video allows us to play “Who’ll be the First to Wear Pajamas on Cam?” as Casual Friday turns into Casual April.

This new normal of broadcasting from home is a tough adjustment for many of us who never knew just how spotty our wireless internet was. When even Gram-Gram is sucking up bandwidth as the entire family goes about trying to recreate their prior lives online, streaming video gets rationed like butter during World War II. Not that cobbling together the signal strength to chat on camera with the office is any prize. It almost makes daily showers mandatory, for instance.


Zoom forces us to look at ourselves in new ways. Many of us will struggle with the placement and angle of our cameras as co-workers peek inside our homes for the first time to judge our decor/children/pets/Week Four quarantine hair coloring (or lack thereof). We’ll take a fresh look at the coat of paint on that wall or whether that velvet Elvis painting is really the best background for that upcoming performance review. We’ll wonder what happened to our nose; was it always this big?

Zoom has also dominated the news cycle recently. A middle school English teacher, I looked up “Zoom bombing videos” as I researched ways to communicate with my students from home (say goodbye to those carefree snow days, kids). The chaos and confusion created by the “enterprising” children in those clips was eye-opening, but no teacher of adolescents would ever be surprised that this “Lord of the Flies” mentality has crept into online teaching. Every laptop becomes a virtual conch shell for those students who crave more control in their lives.

Regardless, it’s hard to argue with its accessibility and ease of use. Whoever had Zoom stock before all this has officially won the quarantine because the demand for this new communication vehicle will follow the logic of the corner drug dealer: “The first hit is free.” After that, we’re hooked and willing to pay anything to keep what it offers.

Things will be different after we emerge (hopefully soon) from our homes to a post-COVID-19 world, and conferencing on camera will continue to be a part of it. It’s not a matter of if, but of how much. After all, no one imagined in early March we’d be stuck in an office meeting wondering how many participants were actually wearing pants. Some conch shells you hold on to no matter what.

You can read more at RobertFWalsh.com, contact him at RobertFWalshMail@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @RobertFWalsh.