What does this say about me as a person?
Like so many others, I’ve been spending a lot of time on Zoom recently. The coronavirus pandemicmeans more of us are working from home and fully dependent on video conferencing services for meetings. For my co-workers and I, Zoom has been a wonderful gift in this isolating time. The chat rooms are little windows into everyone’s lives, an exercise in voyeurism that can tell you a lot about the people you work with five days a week. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you get to meet an adorable pet or baby. And of course there are the backgrounds.
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Zoom has that fancy little feature that allows you to add virtual backgrounds to chats. Gone are messy lounge rooms — enter endless opportunities for personal expression. Much like the rooms you are trying to hide, your choice of background can say a lot about what kind of person you are. It’s like astrology, but less divisive. Like Buzzfeed quizzes, but with less Disney princesses. Default background Look at me! I’m on a tropical beach! Ha ha, just kidding everyone, just kidding.
Nicole Archer/ Zoom
You’re hanging out on the tropical beach or conferencing under the Northern Lights. This says, “Hey! I’m an outdoorsy person.” You miss fresh air and feeling the sand between your toes while bragging about how in touch with nature you are. Or you’re just really hoping someone brings the subject up and you can talk about your trip to Iceland for longer than necessary. It’s kinda basic, but you’re not trying too hard — and we respect it. But when this is over, please stop wearing those toe shoes to work. A super specific cultural reference “If no one recognizes these photos from the American Horror Story 2019 Halloween party I will scream.”
You’re probably one of the younger people in the office. Older co-workers don’t understand the memes you share in the #random Slack channel but you’re having a great time and you make them feel more in touch with the younger generation. They come to you for advice about their kids and probably tried to set you up with their nephew at last year’s Christmas party. You’re really into fandom and had a thriving Tumblr account in high school. Today, you’re a proper grownup, and have moved onto Twitter, where you run a popular stan account. You list the dates and times your idol interacted with you on Twitter and can’t stop saying sksksksksksk. A cute animal ADORABLE. They’ll never know you’ve been using your treadmill as a wardrobe.
Nicole Archer/ Zoom
Let’s be real. Your hair hasn’t felt the touch of a brush in days. Quarantine treats that were meant to last several weeks only lasted three days and every day your skin grows more pallid thanks to a total lack of vitamin D. We’ve all looked better, it’s OK. The easiest fix of all is simply using a cute animal in the background. People will be so distracted by the adorable bunny behind you they’ll forget you even exist! It’s a win-win. A screenshot of another person in the Zoom call “This is really funny. I haven’t spoken to a person in real life in two weeks.”
Picture this: You’re in the middle of a catch-up meeting and someone sneezes funny. Or gets distracted by something just out of frame. To everyone else, this is just another moment in the day. Not you. You take a sneaky screenshot and set it as your background. You say nothing. Slowly people realize what you’ve done and there’s little laughs of recognition. Some might even laugh through their nose — that little blast through the nostrils that says “that was a good one.”
To you, this is the height of comedy. You’re probably the eldest child and, even to this day, younger siblings flinch a little bit when you walk past, scarred from the ‘hilarious’ pranks you pulled growing up. Bonus points: There are TWO people like this in the chat. They take screenshots until everyone forgets what the original meeting was about. Your co-workers are so, so tired. A photo of you at your desk (to make it seem like you’re paying attention) “Hey! I’m so glad you reached out. I’m actually at capacity/helping someone else who’s in crisis/dealing with some personal stuff right now, and I don’t think I can hold appropriate space for you…”
If you’re anything like me, you probably have had some trouble sleeping at the moment. Anxiety, uncertainty and a touch of existential dread thrive at night, when you’ve just gone to bed and want nothing more than rest. Or, you’ve been playing Animal Crossing for eight hours straight because you have a mortgage to pay off and those sea bass aren’t going to catch themselves. Either way, you’re tired. You can’t stop from dozing off during catch-ups.. Thankfully, there’s a solution. Simply take a photo of you at your desk and set it as your background. It’s foolproof. You’re an innovator, a go-getter and have buckets of creativity. You’re probably fun at parties, when you’re not sneaking off to random bedrooms to have a nap. No background, but sitting in front of your perfectly arranged bookshelf I don’t really know what the words I’m reading mean. That, my friends, is ACTING.
Oh, someone has joined the Zoom chat? Sorry, I was lost in The Bard’s writings. You like books. You’re proud of your collection and ordered five more this week because books are the only thing you can control right now. You like to say the books are better than the movies and when someone asks for Netflix recommendations, you tell them to read a book. You spent 10 minutes before the call finding the perfect angle, rearranging shelves so co-workers only saw your smart books and not the teen fantasy novels you prefer to read. If no one comments on your bookshelf you are devastated. No background, but props or a costume Oh this old thing? Just something I acquired from my circus days.
You’re the office enigma. No one really knows who you really are outside of work. Sure, you’re friendly and talk about your life with your co-workers — but there’s always some critical information that you leave out. Zoom chat is the perfect opportunity to add to your growing mythology. Who cares what the meeting is about when your background is a smorgasbord of peculiar paraphernalia? Where did you find such a flawless replica of a 16th century longsword? Are you a trained opera singer? Is that skull in the background plastic or real? You say nothing; these are but a taste of the real you that lurks beneath the surface. No background Your office chair is an exercise ball.
You’re not here to indulge in small acts of whimsy. You’re here to talk numbers and strategy. KPI! Synergy! Let’s circle back at the end of the week! You love saying stuff like this and it makes you feel important. Working from home hasn’t fazed you. You still wake up at 5 a.m. to do push-ups and walk around the block exactly once. The real kicker is that your work space is entirely blank — you don’t even give your co-workers a chance to take a peek at your place. They have no choice but to assume your place looks like Patrick Bateman’s in American Psycho. Your favorite books are The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and The Four Hour Work Week. You wear jeans to work. At home. Every day. Or, you haven’t learned how to change your background yet. Chop chop!
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