Pivot Back to Phone Calls

Is Zoom actually analogous to in-person at all?

When I was a kid, I hated talking on the phone. I mean, truly hated it. To the point where I would often make my mother place a call on my behalf. This is true. I had some real anxiety around the whole thing. And still do, as my wife will now tell you. It’s perhaps strange — though perhaps less strange than I think it is. Anyway, I bring it up now to kick off a love letter to the phone call.

As bad as phone calls are, I’m not convinced Zoom calls are at least 1,000x worse. Which is not a slight on Zoom — what they offer is clearly extremely valuable and the company is clearly valued as such — it’s not hyperbolic to think that without them in our COVID reality, the world would be operating meaningfully worse. Still. Six months in, I’m pretty done with being on Zoom calls.

It went something like this: in-person meetings were the norm, then COVID hit, then in-person meetings went away, most meetings were postponed to see how the world would shake out, and when it was clear that it would not shake-out anytime soon, Zoom became the replacement for the in-person meeting. Makes sense, it’s video. You can still see the person with whom you intend to speak.

Of course, a Zoom meeting is not a replacement for an in-person meeting at all. It’s something entirely different which we’re all pretending is an appropriate substitute. But it’s not. And what’s crazy is that the older technology — again, the phone call — is actually better as a fill-in for the in-person meeting, in most cases, I find. There are plusses and minuses, obviously. And your own mileage may vary. But I much, much, much prefer the phone call now to the Zoom call.

Freedom to move. Freedom to not be putting on some kind of visual performance. Freedom to not have to stare at a screen because the other person is staring at their screen.

Again, we all understand why we thought video would be the best substitute for in-person — it’s visual. But I honestly think it’s worse in many ways. And worse, it lulls us into thinking it’s a direct replacement when in fact, it’s something entirely different.

So if the next time I speak to you is on the phone, now you know why. And it’s certainly not because it’s easy for me. I just honestly think it’s better for both parties. Til we meet again.

(via Unsplash)


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