To Zoom or not to Zoom?

Young woman making a videoconference call

Let’s face it, not seeing our friends, family and colleagues and not going to our favourite bar or pub, not being able to hug others or kiss them is a real pain. No more weekends away, in my case on a low-cost plane to the UK, no more work trips, let alone seeing my newborn grandchild.

Enter Zoom!

We’ve had Skype and FaceTime for a while but now there are MS Team and Facebook Rooms, plus many others I haven’t heard of. But the principle is the same – group chats with your mates, colleagues, activity groups and of course, your wider family.

It’s sheer pleasure interacting with somebody outside your immediate household and reassures you and them that we are still here. Jokes, experiences, both happy ad tragic, or just chit-chat are still out there for us to share. And seeing people is so much better than the bald talk of social media, even with images. I’ve been on many groups and chats and generally enjoyed every one.

However… (Just for a change from the usual ‘but’ 😉 )

It can get a little chaotic. No, actually very chaotic. Everybody is excited about meeting up, especially when it’s with friends and colleagues of equal status. We all pile in.

After a few minutes, one person seems to dominate the conversation and quieter group members tend to have little chance to say anything unless another respected member specifically asks them for their news or views. And everybody replies which means nobody hears much of what’s said. Then it settles down, but before long another wave comes along.

This is all perfectly natural, but sometimes you feel as if you’ve been at a village jumble sale scrabbling for the desired item.

Video conferencing (whatever the name) was really designed for business meetings where a formal hierarchy and systematic reporting order exists. Like any business meeting, there’s a chairman/woman/person who keeps order and ensures that views are heard, ideas discussed and stuff gets done.

In the military, there is voice procedure which is basically a similar system. Everybody has a place in the order of responding to the call initiator and an identifying number to demonstrate that order.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE connecting with others during this enforced isolation but we seem to have forgotten the usual ways of group talking. Would we talk over each other like this in a pub or over a group meal? I don’t think so. We’d take turns more. I say ‘more’ as we do overtalk a little in real life but mostly we wait for the other person to finish.

Whilst technology should be our servant, not our master, I think we need to work out how to adapt to its limitations. I’m not advocating talking by numbers, but a facilitator should be designated who can ensure everybody gets an equal look in and call order if it’s getting too raucous. This will lead to something resembling a civilised conversation between equals rather than the rather tumultuous free for all I sometimes leave with no breath and a ringing head.

I probably won’t get invited to any more chats now…


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO,  PERFIDITAS,  SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA,  INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO.  CARINA, a novella, and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories, are now available.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series. NEXUS, an Aurelia Mitela novella, is now out.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines… Download ‘Welcome to Roma Nova’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be first to know about Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

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