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J’adore/ J’abhor: video calls

Are you a FaceTime fanatic or a Skype cynic? After months of video call catch-ups, two Muddy editors battle it out over the digital face-to-face.

J’adore, says Muddy Essex editor, Nicola Moyne

The screen stutters; mouths move comically out of time with a slurred flurry of broken speech; a drop of sweat rolls down the side of your hastily made-up face while you desperately try to share your screen for that all-important project update. We feel you. Whether you’ve been battling Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype or BlueJeans during this pandemic, chances are you’ve hit a few digital stumbling blocks along the way. (Yep, it turns out selecting which books to casually display in your background was the fun part.)

But make no mistake: video conference software has been the saving grace for businesses big and small over the past few months and, whether you love or loathe them, virtual meetings are set to become an integral part of the ‘new normal’.

Work-wise of course, online meetings have always been incredibly useful. How else could you host a high-power presentation still sat smugly in your Liberty-print pyjama bottoms? Or talk ‘team goals’ with your boss while a new Nigella recipe quietly bubbles away in the background?

For me, though, it’s all about the unexpected side hustles, courses and hobbies that video conference tech has afforded us during lockdown. Pre-pandemic, online PT wasn’t really a thing. Now you can put yourself through a punishing workout in the garden each day with a local pro. You can study everything from photography to philosophy via digital classrooms. And yes, you can get a weekly wine-fuelled pub quiz going with your mates who moved further than stumbling distance away, too (just keep the sport rounds short, yaas?).

But while yoga and language teachers may have led the way for a more flexible future online, they’ve been closely followed by a wealth of innovative digital classes and workshops that are still springing up daily. You can now learn to surf in your living room (Soul & Surf); handcraft a Scandi-style dinner set on your dining table (Kana); and take a stab at still-life drawing, pencil poised enthusiastically in your home studio/shed (New York Academy of Art). 

In short, it’s never been easier to try your hand at something new and exciting – wherever you are in the world. I’d say that was worth a Zoom-induced sweat-out or two.

J’abhor, says Muddy associate editor, Kerry Potter

Shall we Zoom later? Er, shall we not? Four months ago, when lockdown began and we all became bewildered hermits overnight, I could see the appeal of video calls – they kept us in touch when there was no other way to see the faces of people we love. Now? Enough is enough. Quick, unplug the router. I would rather spend an evening with Prince Andrew in Pizza Express in Woking than do a Zoom fancy dress quiz night.

In the interests of pre-empting furious messages from my mum and various pals, it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy chatting to you. It’s just that I spend far too much of my day on work video calls and can no longer face evenings and weekends doing the same.

Endless Zooming is exhausting. Firstly you have to look at yourself all day. This is the equivalent of going into a real-life meeting with a large mirror and placing it on the table in front of you from 9am to 5pm. And to make it worse, you haven’t had your hair cut since early February and you’ve accidentally dyed your roots ginger (or is that just me?). And because you’re constantly on camera, you must concentrate and look fascinated by what your boss is saying at all times – in an actual meeting, you could get away with yawning or daydreaming about that hunk from Normal People. Not any more.

Then there are the tech glitches. The constant yelling of “YOU’RE ON MUTE!” On family calls, your dad not clocking the taking turns etiquette and bellowing over everyone else and thus cutting their audio feeds. I interviewed a very impressive, high-achieving woman last week via Microsoft Teams and a tech gremlin meant that while I could see her normally, she could only see an extreme close-up of my mouth for the entire hour. Which was as relaxing for me (and as disconcerting for her) as it sounds. At least I didn’t have spinach in my teeth.

But last night something radical happened. My brother – who I currently see every Sunday afternoon on our weekly family Zoom call but with whom I haven’t had a proper conversation for four months – rang me. You know, one of those old-fashioned phone calls where you can’t see each other. We spoke for an hour and it was both enlightening and fun. You should try it.

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