With Virtual Learning Comes Zoom Fatigue- Learn About What You Can Do


Ana Casarella, Falcon Post Staff

After the first day of classes, I felt exhausted and  absolutely wiped. I wondered about what I did that made me so tired. It was only orientation. I guess I’m just not used to waking up earlier! During these first couple of days, one of my teachers mentioned a term I’d heard before. Upon further research, I learned that one reason I was so tired was because of something that is affecting quite a few people right now. Zoom fatigue is exactly what it sounds like: zooming makes you tired.  

This zoom fatigue occurs for several reasons. Distracted by a constant series of changing images, you have to focus more than usual to take in information. Between glancing at your image in the corner, glancing at everyone’s random movements, and making sure you haven’t accidentally unmuted yourself, how much of your attention is even able to focus on the class?

When your camera is on, it is as if there is a mini mirror on the corner of your screen. Most (if not all) people become much more self-conscious and are frequently going to check themselves to make sure they look okay. While you’re trying to take notes, listen to a teacher, or solve a math problem, that little image of yourself sits there and stares back at you. Adding in everyone else’s little bobbing head, people’s faces offer endless distractions. Everyone has a different environment, with different things going on around them, so thoughts like “Did someone’s cat just jump in their lap” and “Is she eating Chick-fil-a?” occur often.  When you are all in the same classroom, everyone’s attention is focused on the teacher (or at least it appears so).  With virtual learning, everything around you is a potential distraction including but not limited to: a sibling making noise, a pet bugging you for attention, the temptation of grabbing a snack from the fridge . It allows you to mentally “leave” the zoom room, and it is confusing to return just as fast as you left. With all these distractions your focus “splits” and “creates a perplexing sense of being drained while having accomplished nothing. The brain becomes overwhelmed by unfamiliar excess stimuli while being hyper-focused on searching for non-verbal cues that it can’t find” (Psychology Today). In short, the combination of information you are taking in is coming in an unfamiliar format, making you tired. 

On the more “sciency” side, the reactions in your brain while interacting with people over a video call are actually different. People interact with body language, facial cues, and gestures. You are accustomed to this whether you realize it or not. Your brain cannot measure this on Zoom because these signals are distorted, out of sync, or lacking altogether. Your brain wants everything to be in sync even if it’s not and even chemicals in your brain are affected. In a normal face to face interaction, your brain will produce both dopamine and oxytocin to help regulate happiness and communication respectively. Thus, biologically, a Zoom call is less satisfying for your brain. Another surprising neurological reaction is that the fight-or-flight reflex can be activated. Your computer screen is often much closer to your face than the face of a person with whom you would have a conversation. Along with these “faces” being much closer to you, each one is a different size and moves in different ways. 

While all this may sound very negative, this information is not meant to send you into a panicking spiral! Please don’t permanently turn off your camera and make a commitment to never speak in class. Your teachers want to see and hear from you! Some days it may be the right decision to keep your camera off or stay quieter, but classes are much more engaging when you can see other people rather than a screen filled with grey rectangles. While sometimes four hours may feel like a million years, we all get built-in breaks and days off of Zoom. And there are many ways to work against this zoom fatigue. 


There are many tips and tricks that you could use. Here are some that you may find helpful:


  • Take breaks! While you may not have much control over your class schedule, take advantage of the built in break time. Use your flex time, Wellness Wednesday, and Friday wisely. This goes beyond zoom, take a break from all screens (and yes, that includes your phone). 
  •  Turn off your camera. If this really helps you focus, turn it off. Teachers may want to see your face, but ultimately they want what’s best for you. Maybe try turning it off when a teacher shares their screen to show notes, but turn it on when in full class discussions.
  • Try ‘hide self-view’, this is a feature on zoom where you can keep your camera off, but your own video is hidden from you. 
  • Do not multitask. Try to limit the number of things to which you are paying attention. 
  • Find a combination or method that works best for you. We are each different, we learn and  engage differently. This list is not everything you could possibly do, but just what I found through my research and think might be helpful. 
  • Remember the phrase that no one wants to hear ever again and you could probably roll your eyes at forever “we’re all in this together”. All your classmates and teachers are struggling with this too, you are not the only one frustrated and confused!