• Jody Kussin

In Times Like These #26 4-9-2020

Chatting with a friend last night, which is one of the perks of all this staying safe at home time, and we were comparing notes regarding all the virtual calls in which we are participating. She had some great observations which I will share regarding ‘zoom’ etiquette. Yes, there are books written on this topic in the business world, and many H.R. folk scrambling around developing policies and procedures for how to conduct oneself in cyber-meeting land, but most of those focus on the work from home (WFH) issues, and then the educators are focused on the so called ‘distance learning’ issues and no one seems to be addressing the issues of the ELECTRONIC PARTYING world.

For WFH meetings, of course, much as been made around the issue that while you CAN be on the call without your pants, it’s best to put them on nonetheless. (There is a hilarious video floating around where a call ends and the four colleagues believe it’s all shut down, so one man gets up from his table and walks around his house, pant less, while his pals attempt to get his attention.)

For adults conducting business and teachers instilling wisdom, laws of the land include having one person able to mute all others (‘the administrator or host’) as well as managing the narrative, having an outline or curriculum to which all are adhering and reminding all participants to either close their video feed OR remove the beer bottles from the camera’s eye. Another rule suggested is that colleagues/students refrain from eating more in the ‘distance meeting’ than they would in a real meeting. Cup of coffee ok – margarita, not so much. Snack that is not crunchy unless you are 100% certain you are muted, ok – steak and lobster dinner, not so much.

From the educator tips, columnist Mary Jo Madda notes that should teachers be having a hard time getting students’ attention, they may consider visual changes, including ‘shave your head – that will get them all focused on you.’ It’s hard enough to engage middle school aged kids (or any developmental stage child, for that matter) in ‘figurative language, analogies, allusions’ and ‘slope intercept formula’ when teaching in person, but once you take it to the pads and tablets, the task becomes almost Sisyphean.

But what about conduct for the now very popular Virtual Parties? These are wonderful and innovative and are incredibly helpful in these times, but, turns out, they too can benefit from some structure. It has been noted by adults and teens alike, that zoom parties, like real life parties, can feel isolating and replete with ZPC…..ZOOM PARTY CLIQUES. Getting invited onto one of these call is fun. However, it may seem like once there, there is no avoiding mean people or nice people who inadvertently exclude others.

Good news though – because there IS a way to avoid this painful social drama which is harder when you’re in real life - - - sign off!! If in a party with anyone toxic, simply write a note in the chat section saying, ‘so sorry, G2G, got to go, my chimpanzee just turned on the shower.’ Then blow a silent kiss and shut it down. Yup, protect yourself. A great thing about this cyber land of connecting is that when it’s not working for you, you can easily opt out.

If you are hosting, you can also ensure less negativity.

  1. Limit the number of invites and try to keep each gathering to one ‘group’ (i.e. don’t mix your first cousins with your pre-school friends.)

  2. Set a time limit and loosely adhere to it.

  3. Consider a tiny bit of structure. Celebrating a birthday? Ask a few folk to make a toast. Hosting a reunion? Ask a few people to bring some old photos.

  4. Share an activity. Have a person demonstrate a favorite recipe, dance choreography, guitar riff. Or make it a cocktail hour with grown ups once the kids are asleep.

Bottom line - don’t let a party become work! Virtual time together is not the same as in person time together, but it IS incredibly uplifting, fun, funny, and a perfect way to close our social distances, in these times.

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