As more and more countries have declared a lockdown, downloads of all video conferencing apps have soared to record highs. But Zoom has risen to particular prominence: app tracking firm Apptopia has said that Zoom was downloaded 2.13m times around the world on 23 March, the day the lockdown was announced in the UK– up from 56,000 a day two months earlier.
Zoom allows users to talk to up to 99 other people for free for up to 40 minutes and people have been quick to seize upon its ability to connect us in these very challenging times.
In part the use of apps like Zoom is being driven by the need to work and connect with colleagues now that most people are working from home. But there is a broader reason. We are all desperately missing being with other people. We’re all trying to make the best of the situation we find ourselves in, and apps like Zoom are providing us with the tools to do so.
But the more we use these social platforms, the more apparent it is that they can be no substitute for face-to-face encounters. Being in the same space as another person, seeing all the nuances of their facial expression, is not something that can be recreated online.
Experts in interpersonal communication have estimated that nonverbal communication constitutes approximately 70% of what is involved in communication. In other words, only about 30% of communication involves the actual words that we use. When we’re connecting online, we’re missing much of the communication cues we’ve evolved to interpret. That’s why connecting virtually feels short of the actual thing.
But for now we need to keep apart. So we’ll use all our ingenuity and make the most of technology.