Róisín Ingle: We need to talk about the elephant in the Zoom

I can’t blame my friend for not wanting to Zoom. Lockdown socialising has lost its lustre

‘When asked to partake in a Zoom, I don’t yet have the guts to refuse’

‘When asked to partake in a Zoom, I don’t yet have the guts to refuse’

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I ask my friend, who I haven’t been in contact enough with over this pandemic, if she’d like to do a Zoom. I don’t know if that’s the correct parlance. Do a Zoom? Have a Zoom? Make a Zoom?

Pandemic lingo is hard to navigate.

Anyway, I ask her because I feel like if I don’t at least ask it looks like I have no interest in a proper catch-up. I myself, do not want another Zoom video call. Another Zoom is the last thing I want. But I feel to admit that would be rude.

We Zoom, therefore we are. I don’t make the rules.

“No. I really wouldn’t like to have a Zoom. I’m all Zoomed out of it” my friend says, some might say rudely but I would say irritably or, if I am being charitable, wearily.

“I really can’t stand all this Zooming. So if you don’t mind, could we not Zoom?”

I can’t help but be offended. I don’t want a Zoom with her either, not really, but when I am asked to partake in a Zoom, I don’t yet have the guts to refuse outright in this way. I worry about hurt feelings.

This is the real elephant in the Zoom.

Other people who refuse Zooms with me at least have the decency to come up with elaborate, deeply specific, excuses that take far more effort and imagination than a flat out “sorry, I’m Zoomed out of it”.

“Sorry, I can’t Zoom. That is the night when my family are having a no screens evening. We’re playing the new strategy board game we bought and writing letters to each other about our feelings.”

“Sorry, I can’t Zoom. We’ve bribed the kids with Haribo and we’re having a romantic night in the kitchen with a particularly good Bored-deaux or maybe a Cabernet Tedium and some ribs we’ve been marinading for the last 48 hours”.

“I would love to another time, but sorry I can’t do a Zoom then because that is the night our entire extended family is playing Who Wants to be a Millionaire? (on Zoom) and they are making me be Chris Tarrant so I can’t get out of it”.

“Sorry, I can’t Zoom. My connection is very unstable at the moment”.

When a Zoom is refused in this way, it feels like slightly less of a rejection. And I also appreciate the effort it takes to come up with a vaguely plausible excuse.

“I’m Zoomed out of it”, if brutally honest, just feels dismissive.

I say goodbye to my friend and brood about it for a while.

I’m Zoomed out of it too, you know. Zoom fatigue is real. The pressure to be “on” the whole time is exhausting. When I am out at real life gatherings, I will often disappear for a break on a pretence of purchasing bacon fries. I mean, I do actually purchase the bacon fries but I take longer than I need, just to give myself a break. About the time it takes to eat a packet of bacon fries. Slowly.

The empty chair is not a good look on Zoom whereas in real life it doesn’t seem to matter as much.

The Zoom I’ve enjoyed the most is a new Friday Locktail workshop my friend Lucy, a supreme mixologist, initiated. Instructional Zooms are more bearable, I find. I learned to make Whiskey Sours one week and Gin Fizz the next using my water bottle as a cocktail shaker. Hydration is very important in lockdown.

I divide the labour with one of my daughters. She makes the sugar syrup, separates the egg white, delivers the ice, squeezes the lemon and measures out the angoustine bitters. This is called Home Economics.

I do the shaking of the cocktail. And the drinking of the cocktail. Rather than it being a draining Zoom encounter, I find it invigorating. It doesn’t last too long either, around the time it takes to knock back two quarantinis.

And while I still need a lie down afterwards to recover, it’s a deliciously head-spinning lie-down on account of Lucy being very alcohol forward in her approach.

I suppose I can’t really blame my friend for not wanting to Zoom. Or for not wanting to communicate at all really. The first flurry of lockdown socialising has lost its lustre.

Nobody has any news. Or gossip. It’s all the same old, same old:

“What are you having for dinner? Where did you go for your walk? Have you watched Unorthodox yet?” And on and on.

My friend told me she had a phone conversation the other day where the entire discussion comprised of an explanation about a new way of cooking a courgette. It lasted half an hour.

No wonder our connections are unstable.

And also, is it Locktail Hour yet?