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The Unintended Invitation From Zoom

Posted on October 21, 2020
Photo of a Zoom Call with a few people on the call.

Zoom or other video conferencing platforms are not new, but in mid-March much of the workforce found itself spending the bulk of the day on Zoom meetings, and as such extending an invitation to colleagues, strangers, professors, students, etc., into their homes. For many of us this has brought some chuckles with various pet Zoom escapades such Skippy the fluffy orange tabby walking in front of the camera, Sadie barking at the doorbell to protect the inhabitants from the delivery person, aka the neighborhood serial killer, or one of our beloved fur babies pleading for much needed and deserved attention. Other interruptions have led to laughter as well, such as the unsuspecting brother or husband walking in the background in his underwear or the mother yelling at her son while he’s in class to clean up his breakfast dishes. There are likely hundreds of compilations of Zoom fiascos that will reduce you to hysterical tears.

But what about the unintended invitation? The intimate view into the lives of our students, professors, peers, colleagues, or clients? The camera gives us a view of their home, their kitchen, dining room, basement, and in some cases their bedroom. We have to consider that some may be proud to show off their surroundings, while others may not. What about the family who is crammed into a small two-bedroom apartment with little privacy? What about the parent who is trying to hold a meeting while supervising their seven- and ten-year-old learning virtually as the four-year-old has a temper tantrum?

If you have been on Zoom since mid-March, you likely have seen it all. And while much of it is funny, some of it puts our students, professors, peers, and colleagues in an awkward position, giving us a glimpse of them or their lives they never intended on sharing. This can have an impact on self-esteem, confidence and even relationships.

So, next time you are in a Zoom meeting, keep in mind that the invitation extended by Zoom may not be one willingly extended by all of the participants on the call. It is easy to judge and wonder why someone doesn’t use a background or clean-up the stack of dishes sitting on the counter or the unmade bed but check your judgment at the virtual door. This is a time for empathy. Try and understand that each one of us has different challenges at the moment, some of us have whining kids, meddling moms, persistent pets, messy kitchens, while others may long for a meddling mom. The messy kitchen may be a one off or there may not be enough hours in the day to get IT ALL DONE.


Anne Converse Willkomm
Assistant Dean, The Graduate College
Assistant Clinical Professor & Department Head, Goodwin College
Drexel University
Posted in interpersonal-communications