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Embracing the Chaotic Side of Zoom

Published onApr 20, 2020
Embracing the Chaotic Side of Zoom
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THREE YEARS AGO, the political analyst and South Korea expert Robert Kelly was giving a live interview on the BBC, via videoconference, from his home office in Busan, when his two young children barged into the room. The pair—a jauntily assertive, glasses-wearing preschooler and a baby who skittered in, as if propelled by a mysterious force, on a wheeled walker—were pursued and eventually apprehended by their frantic mother, who, on her hands and knees, hustled the saboteurs out and pulled the office door shut. The video quickly went viral, but I had forgotten about it until recently, when the videoconferencing service Zoom, and the circumstances under which I and many others had begun to use it, reminded me of Kelly’s thin smile and his wife’s desperately grappling arms.

As the coronavirus pandemic made its rapid and implacable advance across the United States, forcing sweeping closures of schools and workplaces and bringing about the disappearance of any type of collective, real-world activity, it became obvious that a new era had begun. With millions of Americans self-quarantining for the foreseeable future, Zoom became, seemingly overnight, not only a professional lifeline but also a way of life. Suddenly, we couldn’t see anyone in person, but everyone appeared to be seeing one another on Zoom—at college lectures and in elementary-school P.E. classes, at cardio-kickboxing training and on kindergarten playdates. Some nights, after spying screenshots posted on social media of acquaintances raising glasses during a virtual cocktail party, one might experience Zoom fomo. Other evenings, one navigated conflicting Zoom plans. “I have two friends I watch a movie with, and now I have to push that to another day because of a surprise birthday party,” a friend told me.

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Embracing the Chaotic Side of Zoom(Naomi Fry, The New Yorker, April 20, 2020)

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