Living in a Zoom New World

Zoom, meeting software, application, logoThe global pandemic has changed many things but a big one that often goes unmentioned has been our nearly instantaneous transformation from a face-to-face society to a Zoom world.

Companies might use Webex, ClickMeeting, BlueJean, Slack, or other tools, but the majority of folks depend on Zoom’s free 45 minutes for their connections.

Moving Right Along

Lacking the ability to meet and speak to one another in groups, we turned to technology for a replacement. This makes sense. Why not use what we have to keep our lives, jobs organizations, and congregations moving right along.

This new, widespread dependence on technology has cast a light on two points:

  1. People who used minimal or no technology—typically the older demographic —have been forced to get online and learn how to navigate Zoom.
  2. We have learned how many people lack computer literacy, fear the internet, worry about “breaking” their laptop, and have trouble learning basic app functions.

Priority vs Technology

Why does this matter? Most pressing, and most important, is the way in which we have to schedule appointments to get a Covid-19 vaccine. Most states, mine included, have set up web sites that allow you to schedule appointments by date and location, possibly also by priority.

Covid-19, vaccine, vials, vaccination, pandemicThe people setting up these web sites, who tend to be a younger demographic, assume a level of computer literacy that simply doesn’t exist for those in their parents’, or grandparents’ generations. The fact that older people have higher vaccine priority highlights the fundamental flaw of forcing them to use a system they don’t understand and often fear just to take advantage of it.

Plus, signing up seems to be complex. (I’m not old enough to have reached priority status yet.) You need to have your medical insurance cards with you and enter all those long numbers into the website. You also need to know when and how to get online.

One thing I’ve noticed (with some amusement) is hearing people on my Zoom church coffee hour trading advice on how to beat the system. You can either (1) go online at 12:01 a.m. when the schedules reset or (2) call your son in California and ask him to do it at 9:01 p.m. his time. I don’t have a son in California so I expect to stay up late.

I also think, however, that if you need to game the system to use the system, then the system is broken.

Joining the Zoom Meeting

On Monday I posted on Facebook that:

“If you think it’s easy for old people to make vax appointments online, you should join my book group’s Zoom meetings.”

Doonesbury, Garry Trudeau, Zoom meetingI was being only slightly sarcastic. The same dynamic applies to my church’s coffee hour and, I’m sure, the Zoom meetings of many other organizations. My post was just another way of saying the two points listed above.

I’m not the only one to comment on the frustration of a Zoom meeting with people who don’t understand or can’t remember how to use the app’s basic functions. Cartoonist Garry Trudeau made the same point in his comic strip on February 7. (It’s really funny.)

Outside the Zoom Struggle

I stand somewhat outside the Zoom struggle, however, because I had a career in high tech. That meant I had to learn new technologies on a regular basis just to keep up. First, I had to understand the technology of the products my company sold. Then came the tech needed to do my job and communicate with others. Even after I retired, I had to learn the technology of blogging so I could start and edit The Next Phase blog. While sometimes frustrating, this process did not present a major problem.

I have no trouble remembering how to Mute and Unmute in Zoom meetings.

Major Eyerolls and Some Progress

I wish I could say the same about others. I should shut off my video so friends can’t see my major eyerolls when the meeting goes about like the one in Mr. Trudeau’s cartoon.

Zoom Fatigue, pandemic, work from home, October 2020It particularly annoys me when fluttery wives call their husbands over to turn on their video or unmute their mic because they just can’t remember how to do it. C’mon ladies, we’re smarter than that. Pay attention and you can do it yourself, no husband required.

Worst of all, however, I don’t see some people. I haven’t seen them at any Zoom meeting since the pandemic lockdowns started. Not all of these old dogs are beyond learning new tricks, so I wonder where they have gone. And how they are doing.

At my last Book Group meeting, I put up a photo background on my video. Because the group is all about books, I used a photo of the Boston Athenaeum, which is a beautiful library. I did it just to demonstrate to the group that it could be done.

Sure enough, someone asked and I did a mini-Zoom tutorial on how to change your background. Some people got it right away. Others got lost right away. But we made some progress. I think.

Maintaining Somewhat Normal Lives

online meeting, pandemic, Zoom, meetingComputers and applications like Zoom are helping us to maintain somewhat normal lives amidst the pandemic. Among many things, they let us:

  1. Order groceries
  2. Order takeout meals
  3. Schedule and participate in meetings
  4. Go to school
  5. Get books from the library
  6. See the faces of friends and family
  7. Communicate via email and social media
  8. Buy necessary items
  9. Watch lectures and travelogues
  10. Schedule Covid-19 vaccine appointments

Starting Over

Don’t fear your computer. Just sit down and play with Zoom or whatever app you need. You won’t break it and you can’t break your computer. The worst that will happen is that you get lost. Then just shut it down and start over. After all, we’ve seen a thing or two and we know how to start over.

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About Aline Kaplan

Aline Kaplan is a published author, a blogger, and a tour guide in Boston. She formerly had a career as a high-tech marketing and communications director. Aline writes and edits The Next Phase Blog, a social commentary blog that appears multiple times a week at She has published over 1,000 posts on a variety of subjects, from Boston history to science fiction movies, astronomical events to art museums. Under the name Aline Boucher Kaplan, she has had two science fiction novels (Khyren and World Spirits) published by Baen Books. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies published in the United States, Ireland, and Australia. She is a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston and lives in Hudson, MA.

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