Overloaded with virtual meetings?
I’m currently in week #6 of staying-at-home, with the measures extended until May 20th for now. I laugh thinking of how excited I was when I heard I didn’t have to go into the office anymore or think of excuses to get out of social invitations.
The joke’s on me because both those things seem to have increased tenfold since then.
Every morning, at 8:30 on the dot, I join a Google hangout meeting for work. Then, throughout the week, I have a few more virtual meetings for work that I attend. Since I have a toddler running around the house at all times, I tend to mute myself about 90% of the time.
And those are not the only virtual meetings I’ve been a part of since the stay-at-home orders came in on March 16th in the Netherlands.
Since I’m in the middle of finishing my second Master’s degree, all my classes have moved online. While I’m used to taking online classes, I’ve never had to take part in a virtual happy hour with an entire class of 50 people. If that weren’t awkward enough, we had to take turns telling everyone how we’re faring, what drink we’re drinking, and how we feel about all classes going digital. Love it.
You can I’m the second one from the top.
But wait, there’s more. I’ve also taken part in several Zoom meetings with friends back home in the States. I found myself eating dinner while staring at everyone else having lunch. Did I mention that at one point or another, someone had a bad internet connection, making it extremely difficult to communicate without having to ask “can you hear me now?”. This has been a frequent incidence in ALL virtual meetings. This song and dance of sketchy video transmission, bad audio, and dropped faces is a whole beast of its own.
So I thought, let me write about the 5 reasons why virtual meetings are an introvert’s nightmare.
Here we go.
1. There goes the internet connection again
Maybe it’s just me, but my internet connection has been quite on and off since everyone’s been staying home. You might think, no big deal, just reconnect and ta-da! Well, not so fast. If I’m in the middle of presenting or working through my thought process and the entire audience stopped seeing me 10 minutes ago, I have to play the awkward dance of logging back in, getting everyone resettled and figure out when they stopped seeing me. Then I have to backtrack and think of what I was talking about. Since it already takes me forever to speak my mind, having to re-speak it is nightmarish.
2. Interruptions, interruptions, interruptions
Is there etiquette on virtual interruptions? Usually, in a face-to-face meeting, I’d raise my hand or make a gesture to signal to the speaker that I have something to say or ask. In a virtual meeting, there’s no such thing. This is how it’s gone down in my virtual meetings if I want to say something: I press unmute, and excuse myself for interrupting. What happens is that with the lag in sound/video, the person continues talking, so I assume that they didn’t hear me.
The introvert in me pretends it never happened because there’s no way I’m going to repeat myself again. I press mute immediately and feel terrible about interrupting. Except, a few seconds later, they stop talking. Is it my spotty internet connection again? Did the video freeze? No. They’re waiting for me to comment. It takes me a few seconds to gather myself, but by the time I start talking, they’re also saying something. So here we are again, doing the song and dance talking over each other. Cue the awkwardness in front of everyone else.
3. Virtual happy hours are not happy
Let’s talk about social virtual meetings. Those aren’t more comforting than the professional ones. I don’t know about you, but these days, I don’t have to scroll far to see people posting their virtual happy hours with friends. Usually accompanied by the caption “virtual happy hours are a good time”. Eye-roll. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been face-timing one-on-one with the people I care about. But having a recurring virtual meeting every few days sounds way too overwhelming for me. There’s not that much I have to say you know: “I’m still staying at home friends, what about you!?” And the funny part about being invited to too many of these meetings? There’s no excuse to not attend!
4. There’s nowhere to hide
Usually, when I’m in a social gathering, and my energy has been completely sucked, I tend to look for a way out. I usually excuse myself to take a mental break (aka hiding in the bathroom) or I pretend I have to be somewhere else (or that I need to call someone). Sure, I can open a few internet tabs if the conversation is taking a turn that doesn’t involve me, so it seems that I’m still staring at the screen, but then I have to focus on my facial expressions so it doesn’t look like I’m reading a novel on my computer. As an introvert, I need a way out in order to survive such events, but there’s nowhere to hide these days.
5. Everyone has the attention span of a goldfish
This goes for both professional and social virtual meetings. I find myself cutting sentences short, and fast-tracking through my thoughts because I can see people are getting distracted. Either someone’s kid is throwing a tantrum (or my kid is), or they’re grabbing a snack, or they’re changing their zoom background, no one is truly paying attention to the conversation. Let’s also add in the spotty internet factor (have to finish my thought before my internet or someone else’s goes down!). As an introvert, I’m already uncomfortable with all eyes on me when I speak, and with taking up too much time to talk, so I end up mutilating everything that I say. And because of all of this, boom! social anxiety decides to pay a visit. Just another thing to have to worry about.
So tell me, are you experiencing any of these (or maybe other frustrations?)