Like the rest of the world, the way I worked was turned upside down last March. Before I knew it, all of my meetings were moved to a virtual format. I had heard of Zoom, but had only used it a few times. By April of 2020, it was a part of my daily life.
From 9 to 5, I found myself interacting with my colleagues, teaching my students, and even having family and friend events on Zoom. At first, it was cool. We scheduled online events all the time. I had dance parties with my friends and their kids, I attended lectures and book readings, and even took some virtual classes just because.
But, it soon became clear to me that in our desperation to connect and our naivete that we would be out of this pandemic by summer, we overdid it with Zoom and soon hit a wall now referred to as “Zoom Fatigue.”
I love this technology, I really do. Being able to still collaborate with those that I work with is crucial to my job and I appreciate that this is something that wouldn’t have been possible just a few years ago and we would be instead, making memes about conference calls, but it’s still a rough adjustment.
Though the commute is shorter, the stress of staying healthy, working as best we can despite the circumstances and keeping up with our responsibilities inside the home is taking a toll on us all and it’s time to say no to evening virtual events.
As we have been working like this for a year, one thing is true: It’s harder to guard your personal time and say no to events because you have nowhere else to go and everyone knows it. Instead of scheduling a virtual event because they should, many have started scheduling them because they can.
I have made it my goal to not attend virtual evening events that don’t add value to my life. Realizing that not everything is a fit and not attending every event doesn’t make me a bad friend, family member, or lessen my support of an organization was the first step.
In the past week alone, I got invited to a virtual dance party, a book chat, an undergrad alumni event, and a new online knitting group.
I love all of these ideas and in my past “normal” life, I would have jumped at the opportunity to go to some of these in public, but now, with my days filled with online meetings and events, I need my evenings to relax my mind, my body, and to spend time with my family.
My standard reply is to say that though I love the idea, concept, or want to support the organization, my time with my family and the time I schedule after my daughter goes to bed for myself are important to me.
Life is hard in our own little bubbles these days. We are living where we work and I don’t know about you, but my desire to have a clean house has quadrupled, without being able to run out to eat all the time, I have been trying new recipes, and I find creative ways to workout at home. I also have a six-year-old who deserves my attention after work and school is done.
And if we think this is all taking a toll on us, it’s important to remember what it must be doing to our kids. While I would love to attend every book event in the world, my daughter needs a routine, needs to be cuddled, needs a healthy dinner where we all eat together at the table, and needs us to tuck her in and kiss her goodnight.
Though it may seem to an outsider that I have all the time in the world and shouldn’t have any reason to say know to joining them for a virtual comedy hour, the reality is, even if I didn’t have family obligations and the desire to decompress after work, I have no desire to sit in front of a computer when I’m off the clock.
I will make exceptions for birthday events (having turned 40 just a few weeks ago, I fully appreciate my friends getting in front of a screen in their own personal time to say “hi”), family celebrations, and close friends’ business and book launches, and I’ve even grabbed some opportunities for professional development like writing workshops.
But, if you’re asking me to come “hang out” virtually or attend a cooking class or viewing party, I have a six-year-old who has recently learned to read, and I want great in-person entertainment any way I can get it.