Video calls making you feel exhausted? It could be "Zoom fatigue"

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- We've had video-conferencing tools for a while now. We FaceTimed family and friends from time to time; maybe you had a video conference for work.

But now, so many more interactions are happening virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It's proving what researchers have long known: that virtual interactions can be extremely hard on the brain, leaving you feeling exhausted.

NatGeo journalist Julia Sklar looked into what's being called "Zoom fatigue."

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She said researchers have found that the brain is not getting the information it expects in a conversation. We are not seeing hand gestures or body language, and facial expressions can be tough to see and interpret.

FULL INTERVIEW: NatGeo journalist Julia Sklar discusses "Zoom fatigue'
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FULL INTERVIEW: NatGeo journalist Julia Sklar discusses "Zoom fatigue' with 6abc's Sarah Bloomquist.



We talked to Sklar from her apartment in Boston, ironically using Zoom.

"None of that is coming through over video, but your brain is expecting it to and that is where the exhaustion sets in, that gap between expectation and reality."

Sklar told us she learned from her interviews with researchers.

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"It may make something like a video conversation fall into something we might call an uncanny valley. So it seems very close to real life and our expectation of a real interaction, but it's not quite getting there. That's where a lot of the exhaustion comes in - your brain working overtime to fill in the gaps in information it's expecting to get but is not getting."
The Brady Bunch format also doesn't help because your brain is trying to read so many faces at once.

"Your brain is basically trying to connect to too many faces at the same time," Sklar said. "None of them is really coming through super clearly so you're not getting a clear picture of anybody, but you're getting a partial picture of people and that makes it really difficult and it makes it hard to connect."

Interestingly, some people with autism are more comfortable with video interactions. It's clear when its someone's turn to talk and things like hand gestures can be overstimulating.

Maybe this "Zoom fatigue" will go away or maybe we'll just go back to making more phone calls.

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