Ode to Zoom

Are you suffering from Zoom fatigue?


Many people are talking about it, so I took a look at my trusty sources to see if this has really become a thing.

Urban Dictionary to the rescue! It has a definition for Zoom fatigue. Many of you can probably relate: “Sore buttocks and slight throbbing of head from staring at everyone in their pajamas while participating in meeting after meeting in your dining room due to social distancing due to COVID-19.”

And wait, there’s a second definition: “When you’ve participated in too many Zoom meetings and it makes you tired.”

Wikipedia, not surprisingly, boils it down to plain English: “Zoom fatigue is tiredness, worry or burnout associated with the overuse of virtual platforms of communication, particularly videoconferencing.”

Most of the other definitions of Zoom fatigue come from psychological sources, which you can google if you’re interested. As it turns out, there has been a lot of study into this “phenomenon” in the last year. And with good reason.

Last year, when our downsized family sat down to the Passover seder, we had a new guest at the table: A shiny silver laptop had the seat of honor, and its counterparts were perched on tables in the homes of those who usually attend my family seder.

Yes, we used tech on Shabbat and holidays. It allowed us to celebrate as we have for years, albeit with a twist.

At the time, we figured we’d all be back together by the time Thanksgiving rolled around, and certainly by Passover 2021.

None of us dreamed that the laptop and the videoconferencing platform we call Zoom would still be front and center in our lives one year later.

Hasn’t this become the tech we love to hate? Yes, we are tired of the whole thing.

I haven’t seen my brother since Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving 2019. My mother? It was a year in January. Unfortunately, it’s pretty much the same story for the rest of the extended family, who live all over the U.S. 

If you have read my columns about my family gatherings, you know that my home is the central spot for all holidays. I realized that again recently after receiving a gift from my brother. He had put together a book of family photos, and so many of them were taken at my house (and involved food!). 

We last gathered in person in November 2019. But we get together virtually almost every week. And Zoom is the method we use to connect. 

So while many of us are suffering from Zoom fatigue, I’m here to remind you that Zoom, and its connectivity cousins, are not really a bad thing in these locked-down, stay-at-home times. 

I try to remind myself on a regular basis that if not for Zoom: 

  • My 91-year-old mother would not have been able to meet her new great-granddaughter and attend her naming ceremony.
  • None of us would have the option to attend services and worship with my sister, a cantor at a congregation in Wilton, Connecticut. And, by the way, she interviewed and was hired for this position via Zoom, never stepping into the building until after accepting the job.
  • We would not see each other nearly as often. We see each other more often virtually than we ever did in person pre-pandemic.
  • Another year would have gone by without my sister attending a challah bake. This year, she was at the R.I. Challah Bake, as was my niece. And there were several local women who mentioned family members who were attending the event for the first time, all virtually and all from outside Rhode Island.
  • Game night would never have become an activity for various branches of my family. Cousins are now keeping in touch with each other more often than during a summer vacation at the lake!

Despite the fatigue, Zoom has brought all of us together in ways we might never have imagined. It’s allowed us to connect with colleagues, friends and family local and far-flung. It’s allowed learning opportunities and given new meaning to armchair travel. It has given us freedom in lockdown. 

So, when we are finished focusing on the fatigue angle, let us celebrate that we can still come together in small ways to make it through these trying times together.

And next year, may we celebrate Passover in person, together.

A happy Passover to all!

Fran Ostendorf, Editor