Has Zoom Made Us Shadier To Our Friends?

Getty Images/Caroline Wurtzel

Congratulations, you made it to the one-week mark of social distancing during COVID-19. As a reward, you get a roll of toilet paper (JK, Costco ran out weeks ago), a 1,000-piece puzzle, and the impending dread that all your friends are hanging out on Zoom without you.

Oh, you’re not worried about that yet? Let’s course correct that. A dear friend of mine, Heather, video called me earlier this week. We talked for two minutes and then she had to “go make dinner.” In reality? Heather was actually running to another Zoom call she had with five other friends, which was well-documented on Instagram Stories by a majority of its participants and seen by me, a non-participant, the next morning.

I don’t blame Heather for this lapse in judgement — she has never been anything but a selfless friend. I blame Zoom, the video conference app that has seeped into the brains of well-intentioned people and caused them to become shady.

But wait, there’s more! The widespread shadiness goes beyond your friends leaving you off a video call. Take my mom, who is actually obsessed with me. We were 25 comfortable minutes into a Zoom call the other day when she turned to my dad and started roasting me for the way I’ve situated my nesting tables. “You know I can hear and see you, right?” I said. She was shocked. “Oh, you heard that?” I explained how video chats worked and how my tables have been that way for over eight months, and she changed the subject. One thing Zoom doesn’t mess with is the magical way parents pivot to new topics when they’re over a conversation.

Zoom has brought out the best (“touch up my appearance” filter, anyone?) and worst of us in a short period of time, and we’ll either have to figure out how not to be assh*les or accept the fact that when we’re allowed to hang out with people in person again, we may not have anyone to hang out with. It’s Zoom that gave me the false confidence in double-booking virtual happy hour, ultimately having to tell someone, “I can only stay for one drink!” And it’s Zoom that pushed a friend to DM me about another friend’s “dungeon-style lighting” during a group wine night. (In a world where so few pleasures are allowed anymore, there is a real rush in creating an inside joke in real time at someone else’s expense.)

I know what you’re thinking: “Maybe you’re just friends with bad people?” Let’s talk when you subconsciously judge a friend’s book selection in the background or ask someone to go on mute because “their dog won’t stop barking.” Zoom is the wild, wild, west of social norms, and we’re basically living in a Black Mirror episode in which people only exist on screen, and “leaving a meeting” actually means leaving all of your shady social interactions behind.

Don’t want to become a shady Zoom user? Consider these preventative measures:

Be Transparent

Create a Google Calendar with all your friends and make a rule that no one is allowed to schedule a chat without booking time. Don’t trust people to follow that rule? Tap their phones and listen in on them at all times to make sure everyone is playing fair.

Use A Virtual Background

Your mom won’t make fun of your home decor if you don’t have any home decor to show her. Just go to your preferences on Zoom and select “Virtual Background.” Surprise your loved ones with a trip to the Golden Gate Bridge, or see the world from A Bug’s Life point of view among some dewy blades of grass.

Show Me Your Hands

Notice two friends smirking during a non-smirking moment? They’re probably texting. About you. Fix this by requiring everyone to have their hands in camera view at all times. Just don’t touch your face, because someone will inevitably roll their eyes.