On the heels of the tenth anniversary of the introduction of FaceTime by Steve Jobs, most people rarely video call, argues Ali Drucker. Despite a recent surge due to the pandemic, “Zoom fatigue” often sets in after only a half hour of continuous video calls. It’s surprisingly exhausting. Why?

Perhaps it takes much more mental effort, creating a space and a neat background, touching up appearances to make sure we’re presentable, adjusting lighting, and constantly paying attention. But now during the pandemic, there is renewed interest in video calling, connecting with others digitally when we can’t do so physically.

Somehow, even though I rarely saw my New York friends in the Before Times, I’ve been missing their faces more. Their wisecracks and constant, clever one-upmanship. All the while, I could have just asked for this — a modest video call to catch up — whenever I wanted to. But I didn’t. And if you’re a bit like me, you probably didn’t either.

[. . .]

So why, actually, are so many of us only just now making video calling a habit? Did I really not see my parents’ faces for months on end, even over a screen, simply because I had the option of socializing with my partner and nearby friends instead? Was I actually “just super busy” or did I want to avoid confronting how much I missed them? How I was quietly nursing the loneliness of feeling like I might not truly know the people I can’t see in person anymore.

Amid the continuing carnage in this country, I can’t bring myself to make a rhetorical turn toward a silver lining. The pleasant paradox of families and friends like mine getting in more quality time in the age of social distancing feels moot when there’s a national reckoning on racism and the scourge of police violence against black people; when every day thousands of people are still contracting a disease that could kill them — that has already killed more Americans than several wars did. There is no public plea here to boldly carry this newfound sense of connectedness with us into the new normal, whatever that is.

For me, that kind of optimism would be a sleek betrayal, albeit a convenient one: Focusing on the good in all of this would be much easier than admitting the truth — that I could have reached out to my loved ones at any moment, but didn’t until this pandemic made me feel as though I was hanging on by a bare thread.

Ali Drucker


“Why Weren’t We Video Calling All Along?” by Ali Drucker, June 15, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/15/opinion/covid-video-calls-zoom-facetime.html

“Why Zoom Meetings Can Exhaust Us,” by Jeremy Bailenson, April 3, 2020. https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-zoom-meetings-can-exhaust-us-11585953336

“Why Does Zoom Exhaust You? Science Has an Answer,” by Betsy Morris, May 27, 2020. https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-does-zoom-exhaust-you-science-has-an-answer-11590600269