The Mute Button: MVP of a New Era

The start of a new school semester and the continuing reign of Zoom has troubled some of us. Personally, before the start of fall semester, I ripped through my old room and renovated it to befit my needs as a Zoom student. Taking 17 credits has tested not only my GPA but my mental health as well. After ordering three agendas and a wall calendar, it seemed my affairs were in order. There was just one problem left, and sadly I couldn’t remove my family or purchase a new one. The noise in this household was astronomical from the sounds of sizzling pans to my mom’s screeches, asking me for the fifth time if I had eaten anything. Being Hispanic and Latina during this time has only added an extra level of stress.

During summer semester I had picked up my first Zoom classes, three of them in the early hours when everyone else was either sleeping or at work. However, during one of my classes, the worst imaginable thing happened. As I was staring at myself on the screen, I noticed my aunt walk by, and when I lowered my eyes, I noticed she was changing in the background and was wearing only her bra. I instantly shut off the camera feed and proceeded to go on ONE.UF to drop the class out of embarrassment. I ended up dropping all of my Summer Zoom classes but realized I needed to find a solution before Fall came along.

Here are some of the tips that have helped me balance my nosy and noisy family:

  1. 1. Set up a schedule

    This one is a must. You as a student know your set schedule of classes but make sure your family has access to it as well. Make sure you take out the time for club meetings and study sessions. You don’t want your three-year-old snot-filled cousin walking in on your club presentation (trust me, I should know).

    Setting up a schedule will not only tell your family what times you need absolute silence, but it will also simulate a normal school experience. Most of my days are filled with club meetings, work and school which makes my room a no-entrance area. My schedule helps me organize my time and also reminds me that I need to take breathers every now and then. It also regulates my mom’s urges to come check in on me while constantly supplying me with fruit snacks.

  2. 2. Create your own space

    One of the reasons I decided to renovate my room was because I hadn’t lived in my current house for four years. The room was the barf-y green color I had decided to paint it when I was in my “quirky” stage, and the walls were entirely covered in my “abstract art.” Not only did it make my stomach churn, but it also limited my ability to focus. Another major problem was not having a desk to work at and instead having to work in bed. Before school started, I darted to IKEA to purchase a small desk, ordered a chair from Staples, bought some synthetic leaves and decorated a section of my room to be my Zoom hub. I set up a wall calendar and adjusted the lighting in my room. I felt like a YouTuber. All of this helped me get into the right mindset for school.

    I set up my desk in a corner and painted my room a white-beige color. That way there wouldn’t be too much stimulation clouding my thoughts. I also directed my desk towards my bed as motivation to work harder and meet deadlines (I’m still working on the latter). I understand many of us may not have the financial capabilities to fix up our rooms, so a great way to compromise is to buy a lap desk (these cost around $10). You can use the lap desk on your bed and use a pillow chair to prop yourself up.

  3. 3. Focus on your voice projection

    This one I learned when I was young and may be the ultimate reason why I talk so loud. During childhood conversations (which, to the outside world, sound like arguments) with my family, I learned the importance of speaking loudly. Now, I’m not suggesting you scream at your professor, but make sure that when you do talk, your voice is louder than the background chatter. During a class today, when my younger brother was working on an assignment and making noise, I circumvented this by speaking a bit louder and projecting my voice towards the microphone.

    Don’t whisper and don’t yell. Find a middle ground that you can stick to when the noise is unavoidable. Don’t be afraid to use the mute button. It’s there to make your life easier, so use it.

  4. 4. Include your family (this depends on the professor)

    This one will only work if you have an amazing professor. I’m fortunate enough to have five such professors, each of them offering a comfortable experience. When my baby cousins waddle their way into my room mid-class, I know that my professors won’t mind them sitting on my lap. If my younger cousin is obnoxiously typing away, I can include him in examples while presenting. Professors understand that there are some things you can’t control and will work with you. Ironically, one of the benefits of having a loud family during this era is that it makes you relatable and only enhances your main character status.

Overall, just remember that we are all dealing with some form of anxiety during Zoom classes. Just relax and follow some of these tips to get by. For now I’ll leave you with this piece of information I read in "National Geographic": We as a society have faced many pandemics and have managed to overcome them, so it’s only a matter of time before this one becomes another piece of history.