The shift to a virtual learning environment has been a learning process for everyone. Here at Loyola, we are approaching the end of our first entirely online semester. It has been an adjustment, but I feel as though I am finally getting used to virtual school. As many of us can attest to, online learning is a profoundly different experience than in-person learning.
In the beginning of the year, almost everyone in my classes had their zoom cameras on.
Now, I stare at a bunch of black screens, my own included. My professors normally ask us to keep our cameras on, and when they do I respect that, but I also think that there is one aspect about Zoom that many people are overlooking: seeing yourself constantly can be distracting for people like me, who are inordinately critical of ourselves.
When my Zoom camera is on, I am acutely aware of what I look like. That means I’m likely touching my hair or adjusting the camera angle of my laptop. I can pay attention, obviously, but I will always be thinking of what I look like on other people’s screens. Can they see my acne? Does the angle make my forehead look too big? It’s these questions that distract me when I allow my own thoughts to takeover.
It may sound a little crazy to some people that I would be so conscious about my appearance on the computer. After all, I didn’t feel like this when I attended in-person classes. I guess the anxiety comes from knowing that most of my professors and classmates don’t know me outside of a screen. We haven’t met in person, and even if they see me on another platform like Instagram, it’s still just through a screen.
The reason why my Zoom camera stays off is not because I am not paying attention to the lecture.
Rather, it’s the opposite: I AM paying attention, and I don’t want to be overly conscious of my appearance while in class. Of course, there are people who abuse the camera "off" setting and leave their laptops alone while they attend to other responsibilities. But, for me, my camera stays off simply because I don’t want to worry about how I appear on other’s screens. I just hope my professors know that.