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The Joyand Nonstop Video Chat Exhaustion: A Guide


On the fifth day of my isolation, I joined a yoga class on Zoom. I heard about it via Instagram and paid for it on Venmo. All 100+ participants simultaneously played on a Spotify playlist distributed by the teacher. We went through the sun salutations, on the Internet, in real time. Most people have even turned on their webcams, although I don’t dare. Technology worked! It really connected us. My heart has warmed up.

Of course, virtual yoga is not as good as the real thing. Singing the end of class ah-oohhmmms, out loud in my apartment, was the strangest of all. No one was there to hide my vocalizations out of the field. Sometimes a video problem or audio delay kept me sitting for too long. About 45 minutes later, I heard pop-pop-pop from a Slack notification. I forgot to activate Do not disturb.

And because I wasn’t actually in a studio, there was no responsibility. I replied to a text while the rest of the class was holding Warrior Two.

Public studio classes were canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak, so yoga teacher Peter Walters turned to Zoom livestreams based on donations from Venmo and distributed a Spotify playlist in advance so that students can follow the same songs.

For those fortunate enough to work from home, it is now a moral responsibility not to leave home, so that we can slow the spread of the new coronavirus. We have become our own IT professionals, trying to solve the same problem: understanding how the hell is video chat.

While we are away from society, we cannot go to the office of our colleagues, go out with friends, attend an exercise class or take the children to school. Instead, we connect to Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp or Hangouts and turn events in person into pixels on a screen.

Like many of you, I also virtually socialized. Since San Francisco ordered its residents to take shelter there last week, Ive participated in a virtual lunch, coffee, dinner or a drink almost every day. My inbox is full of Doodle polls and Calendly meeting time scheduling requests.

On St. Patrick’s Day, I have FaceTimed with three friends for a happy hour that we had planned before the pandemic. I watched one prepare kale sausage pasta for dinner and another sip of wine, while the third video of friends flashed as she checked other apps on her phone. For the next hour and 40 minutes, we chatted and laughed.

Due to the San Francisco shelter warrant, the author and three friends took their St. Patrick’s Day happy hour to FaceTime.

Over the weekend, I attended a Zoom meeting with more than a dozen university friends, many of whom I hadn’t seen in over a year. There was so much to catch up on. The first few minutes went like this: Hey, how are you? Oh my date. What is that? Oh, sorry, you’re going to start A friend used his Work Zoom account to host the meeting, which lasted more than two hours. After the introduction of a new baby and the recognition of the cute animals, the group settled into a conversational rhythm which was not complete chaos.

I love and want to see my friends and family right now and video calls meet this basic need. Loneliness is a real health hazard. But the fatigue of video calls is real.

Video calls may seem long because there is a lag between the speakers that sharpens the conversation. You are only talking or listening, and completely focused on the screen. You don’t play a game, flip through a menu, or engage in another form of distraction, which is why, for some, video chat can be emotionally distressing. Also, it’s not like you’re in a bar, where the tab starts to add up or the bartender calls the last call. The chat can last as long as the most talkative participant wants to continue.

And when you speak, the attention is entirely on you, as if you were playing in an arena. In a normal gathering, you can naturally turn to the person next to you. Video chat forces everyone into one conversation.


What is your favorite and / or least preferred video chat service? What did you find useful or fun? Join the conversation below.

On top of that, because we were working from home, we were spending more time with our devices. (Have you checked your screen time statistics recently?) Maybe we should find ways to avoid burning our eyeballs with a crisp. I’ve started to break up long catchups into chunks, sending one-minute voice memos to iMessage, for example. It keeps all of humanity from hearing a loved one, without blocking another time on the calendar.

However, since we cannot be with all of our employees, video chat is the best thing to do. This is where being stuck for a while in an application chosen by a friend or colleagues, here is a guide to deal with our new video chat overlords.

Stuck at home with a bad Wi-Fi signal? Joanna Stern of WSJ offers fixes and advice on the best router to buy in her new series of homework advice videos (aka WFH).

Mobile-friendly, low bandwidth and encrypted:

WhatsApp is best for small groups (up to four people), where participants are on different mobile operating systems. With over a billion users, chances are your friends or family are there. Activate the low data usage in the settings if you want to take your video calls on the go.

Signal offers fully encrypted messaging and, unlike


WhatsApp and Apples FaceTime, it is not developed by a large technology company. Unfortunately, you can only chat by voice and video with another person from your mobile phone.

FaceTime is intended for Mac, iPhone and iPad users. It supports up to 32 participants, which appear as floating tiles on the screen. When someone speaks or you click on a tile, that tile swells; when you’re in a big conversation, you just watch the heads shrinking and ballooning. You can however turn your head into a shark! On cell, activate Low Data mode.

Better for large groups:

Zoom has become the first video conferencing software, and there are several reasons for this. The free product can accommodate up to 100 people for 40 minutes, with no time limit for individual calls. (The Pro upgrade is $ 15 per month.) Attendees can be on a mobile or desktop computer and even connect from a phone and don’t need an account to join a meeting . In my experience, Zoom provides the most stable and consistent connection. In addition, you can download fun virtual backgrounds.

Skype can manage up to 50 people in one call, on phones, tablets and desktops. All participants need a free Skype account. The app can also caption and caption live. A fun feature is the background blur, which keeps the focus on your face and not on that strange painting you bought at a flea market years ago.

Google Hangouts can host up to 10 people on Android, iOS, or Chrome web browser. On the web, you can do fun things like hanging out and wearing virtual pirate hats.

The most bells and whistles:

Snapchat and Facebook Messenger and Instagram all offer augmented reality filters and face lenses that can significantly enhance that unshaded home look you have right now. Snapchat supports up to 15 people at a time, while Messenger calls can include up to 50 people. The participant limit on Instagram is six.

Houseparty is * the app * for live relaxation with up to eight people at a time. You can organize a party and invite friends to join and leave as they please. When friends log in, you can be notified that they are in the house. Participants can share their screens and play games like Heads Up and Trivia.

Marco Polo, an app for iOS and Android, is my favorite. It is not a video chat application, per se more like a video messaging service. This makes it a good way to stay in touch with the busy people in your life. You can create groups of up to 200 people. The vocal effects make me laugh every time.

I love to hear how you stay connected with your loved ones from afar. Email me at And don’t forget to subscribe to our weekly newsletter for more analysis, reviews, tips, and headlines about WSJ technology.

Copyright 2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

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