A video chat service that has become popular since the Covid-19 pandemic.
Instead of meeting people outside the home, many of us get together on Zoom. The offices, bars, restaurants and pubs have been replaced by a grainy imitation of social space.
When we use Zoom we project our domestic lives to others. As our hair grows out of shape and un-dyed roots show through, Zoom filters are deployed to make us look younger and virtually beautiful. Initially, people sought to project their personalities by zooming from rooms which showed their best selves, sat in front of heaving book shelves and tidied surfaces. All the trashy novels were swiftly removed and replaced with weighty tomes that have never been read.
Over time, people have tired of ‘book-signalling’ and deployed Zoom backgrounds to demonstrate that they are fun and zany. One woman from accounts spent an entire month frantically tidying her study ahead of work calls before discovering that the ‘home office’ background could hide a multitude of domestic sins. A background of Joe Exotic with a Siberian tiger has become a favourite for many. Others have transported themselves from their kitchen table to the Milky Way or a Barbadian beach. The Bognor Regis backdrop has yet to take off, as has the morgue, Croydon town centre and the Blackpool public loos.
Some people have made terrible mistakes whilst on screen. It used to be the politicians who exposed their private thoughts, when they forgot to remove their interview mic. Gordon Brown exposed himself as a nasty bigot by calling Gillian Duffy a nasty bigot on the campaign trail. John Major forgot to remove his mic before describing his Eurosceptic colleagues as a bunch of bastards.
Zoom has democratised the embarrassing moment. Husbands have wandered into camera shot dressed only in underpants, just as their wives deliver business updates to the team at work. Others have forgotten to disable the video camera when they go to the loo during a boring Zoom team meeting.
Zoom seems to have come from nowhere. But, in fact, the brand is not new. Founder Eric Yuan, left the video-conferencing company Webex when it was bought by Cisco. He walked out with 40 of their best engineers and marketed Zoom as the trendy upstart. Despite extensive advertising, it took the total destruction of social and business life for the video system to enter our homes en masse.
‘Zoom’ sounds like it could transport us at speed to a place of wonder. Instead it has reduced our humanity to a pixelated representation of our isolation. The high-speed name does little to mask the fact we’re going nowhere fast.
One day, perhaps our lives will return to normal and we will meet our Zoom friends again in person.
“Hey Zoom, I’ve had enough of this lockdown, can you transport me to somewhere normal?”