As a somewhat new user of ZOOM, why is it that I now expect people to be stacked atop each other like Quiz Show screens of old, and when my wife and kids get on my case about the lawn, I reach to press Mute All. And I put my Mother In Law in the Waiting Room till I have had a few scotches before I give her the password. I don’t even have to ground my kids anymore or send them to their rooms without supper, I just put them into a chat room for 4 hours.
When my boss gets mad at me, I mute him and message I am having technical problems…%55###@@@!!! and when I reconnect, I have his files in front of me so he can hardly see my face, but he knows I am on it.
I love that we can connect but my ZOOM encounters are a letdown. They feel so shallow, so flat and one dimensional. Sure, I love I can wear my pyjama bottoms, and go blankless so no one sees my scowling face. I can mute myself so I can half attend while I read the paper. I can multi-task such that I can actually attend three meetings at once, all before breakfast, because at most meetings, I am just another anonymous pawn where no one cares if I am there or not. I can press a button that says “I agree” or “Good point” or ” I hear you.” The Deluxe version offers ” Rivetting” “You win” “Stable Genius” and “I wish I had thought of that.”
When you think about it, ZOOM does not have to offer us much. Most meetings meet to meet the need to meet. They have no point but to meet. And after successfully meeting for a meeting, it means the need to meet is met. A Win Win all all round round.
But I sense we are being forced into a new format while we are imprisoned inside an old format – and that McLuhan would remind us, the content does not matter, the format does. Currently, the big worry with ZOOM is security, but perhaps we should be more worried about…well…. humanity.
I listened to a therapy guru today in a ZOOM meeting about COVID19, a professor whom I know personally is witty, sharp, brilliant and his graduates on the call just as innovative but the ZOOM experience made them all sound like repeat Grade 3ers. Never have so many smart people been reduced to an undifferentiated mass of blah.
Is ZOOM the death of all the subtle interpersonal cues and clues and tells that person to person in bodily form entails? No need for aftershave or Pepsodent either. This will dumb us down to being as flat or fat as the ZOOM screen and drive us back to a lifelessly literal view of the “other.” Why even now, with PBS and FOX from home, we voyeuristically scan the screen to see what books are on their shelves, what cats and dogs stroll in stage left or stage right, and what unscripted moments we easedrop on when they forget to press Mute and the wife calls to remind them to take out the f…g washing.
Since we are having ZOOM Seders and ZOOM sunday masses and ZOOM birthdays, what about a ZOOM marriage- love at a secure 6 foot distance. Why Not? Could we have a Government by ZOOM,- (some ask, can we just have a Government) and could we eliminate the need for protests- Occupy becomes a colloquy of web sites on a certain frequency that interrupts the BBC, or White Supermacists are forced to exclusively broadcast on the Hate Channel and we tune in only if you want. Someone says FOX already does that.
And think about funerals by ZOOM and how much we save on having to send flowers or all getting dressed up. Just press Screen Saver Funeral because we are burying 97 year old Uncle Joe today and want to pay our respects. We can create PowerPoint eulogies. ( we do now anyway- and the body is not there, so funerals have been virtual for a while)
Then perhaps one of those smart Florida Mega Churches can set up an Eternal ZOOM where we can chat with our loved ones wherever they are. Death means not anyone dying but think of it that the internet died- not them…we are just getting no signal. Not just death but divorce too. The marraige did not fail- the server died.
Imagine getting ready to do a ZOOM proposal- will you marry me Reginald? What??? Unmute me. Will you marry me? What?? I can’t hear. Unmute you. And what if its a mixed marriage where she prefers Google hangouts or Facetime and not Zoom?
And then, of course, the guilt of every child with aging parents. We don’t have to visit them anymore, we just ZOOM them even if they are in the back apartment of our own home. Very convenient.
ZOOM I am sure will soon come with Surround Sound and Smellerama so you can smell Grandma’s Meatloaf. And like in the latest museums where you can touch the back of the turtle, there will be a ZOOM touch pad to smooth granddaughters face when she is crying. Just Press the ZOOM Console. Its next to ZOOM Tickle and Zoom Aggro, where you shake your fist in your son in law’s face- a special feature for Thanksgiving before an election. Its call the Trump button.
ZOOM is meeting its moment now because we have no other choice. Smoke signals won’t do it and the phone that can now power a human to the moon seems far too simple to use just to call them for a chat. I mean, how antiquated is that?
As McLuhan said, the media becomes the invisible shape of the extended human sensorium, in that our eyes become ZOOM eyes and our ears are ZOOM plug-ins and our sense making conforms to the technological patterns of reception laid down by ZOOM. It rewires our brain.
Theid choice of the word ZOOM is meant to make us think of a camera lens but it also contains a close echo of ZOO and add a few letters and it soom becomes ZOM-BIE, the living dead. Maybe that is the name of their upgrade.
We just celebrated Easter where Jesus came alive again and rose from the tomb. What switched on priests tell us is that this means he came out of lockdown and tweeted “I am Alive.” to all his fans who thought his signal, not him, had died. Dare we wish that for our own Easter, where our crucifixion ends and we are allowed to unplug our zoom ears and eyes and come out of our hidden tombs, i mean rooms.
Alleluia, we will cry, we have arisen from virtual death to embrace once again the virtues of a real life.
Looking for more commentary like this that takes a narrative critical look at politics and the election? Here is the StoryWise Manual for Presidential Elections. THE PRESIDENTIAL PLOT- get your copy here