Since the onset of Covid-19, we have been experiencing a Zoom boom!  The company, which has existed since 2011, has suddenly become everyone’s favorite vehicle for virtual social contact.   It’s the go-to app for flat screen, two-dimensional relationships.  And, you don’t have to wear a mask.

Everyone’s doing it. Businesses, book groups, Cousins’ Clubs, Uncle Leo, even Great Grandma Bessie.  Zoom has become the people’s chat room.

No more hugging, kissing, fist bumps, or secret handshakes.  Now we sit in front of our favorite internet device, click on a mile-long stream of letters and numbers, and invite all these various people into our homes.  Well, not the people exactly, but their virtual representations sitting in little boxes reminiscent of Hollywood Squares.

I, for one, am grateful for Zoom.  I can talk to someone face-to-virtual-face without being concerned that I haven’t yet brushed my teeth.  Or applied deodorant.  And I find some of the Zoom options very enticing.  Like the ability to silence someone who talks too much.  Unfortunately, live people don’t come equipped with “Mute” buttons.

Which brings me to the core of this little essay.  Appropriateness.   What is appropriate in this new social order? Is there a whole new set of behavioral rules? Do’s and don’ts for Zoom encounters?  For example, in pre-Covid life, it would seem impolite and downright weird to greet someone from a distance of six feet.  Unless one of you happened to be in prison.  Now, being apart the length of a tall person is the new normal.

So are there rules for a Zoom meeting? I thought you would never ask!  Below please find some preliminary suggestions for avoiding Zoom fail.

  • Wear Pants – or at the very least, make sure you’re wearing clean underwear. Your mother’s warning applies to Zoom calls as well as accidentally getting hit by a car.  Pajamas are a no-no!
  • Floss – especially if you’ve had salad for lunch. The distraction of a piece of lettuce caught between your front teeth has been known to waste the entire 40 minutes of a free Zoom hook-up
  • Calls of Nature – it’s tempting, but don’t take your device with you to the bathroom due to FOMO. (Fear of Missing Out, for those of you who didn’t take my ESL exam.) Make sure you turn off the camera and the sound.  No one wants to hear you flush.
  • Consider Your Backdrop – while Zoom does provide some interesting backdrops, no one will believe that you’re actually at the Grand Canyon or that you own the Picasso behind you. But you can select a home space that reflects who you are.  And if that doesn’t work, try being someone else.  For example, if you’re very neat but don’t want to be seen as having OCD, toss some papers around your workspace.  Definitely remove all plants that haven’t been watered in three months.  If you really want to impress, ditch the Ikea stuff that you never properly assembled, and rent some new furniture.
  • Flaunt your Intellect – Stack your shelves with the complete works of Shakespeare, volumes of poetry, the lives of German philosophers, and all three books in the Hilary Mantel Cromwell series. Then sit in front of your book case, and smugly take your Zoom call.
  • Leave Vanity at the “Join” Button – Although you can see yourself on camera, avoid the temptation to constantly adjust your hair, change head position in search of your best angle, or move from room to room in search of optimal lighting. There is nothing more distracting than a swishing pony tail, or a face that appears to be following a tennis match.   Unless, of course, it happens to be a piece of lettuce caught between your front teeth because you didn’t floss.  In most cases, makeup is optional.
  • Abide by Time limits – while it’s adorable to show off your precious pets and cute babies, 30 seconds is long enough.  Make that 20.

The above are merely some preliminary suggestions to ensure the success of your Zoom encounter.  As time goes on, and the new world order calls for continued reliance on Zoom,  more nuanced situations will reveal themselves, and many more bulletin points will be added to this list.

But for now, abide by these simple rules, and you will avoid a Zoom disaster.  Most important, as you prepare for your meeting, don’t forget to floss!

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