Cameras off, mics muted

I never thought I’d miss the shuffling between knees in a crammed lecture hall, or the speed-walking between classes to avoid being late.

But here I am, rolling out of bed to log onto yet another Zoom lecture to begin my virtual school day, staring at black screens with names attached to people I’ll never see in person.

In-person classes, where I had the chance to invite friends for a cram study session in the library while sipping Starbucks coffee and eating 49er Shops snacks, feels like a forgotten dream fading away each morning as my professor asks, “Can you see my screen?”

As usual, not a single soul speaks up until an uncomfortable amount of silence rolls by.  

Now, instead of a room full of faces attempting to stay alert in the early morning, all I see are white-lettered names with black backgrounds as cameras are shut off and mics muted.

When I first began college I felt that every class I enrolled in had a potential opportunity to make friends, but now it seems that finding a genuine connection through Zoom is a stretch.

Needless to say, classes have never felt more distant as they are now due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Though it is frustrating logging into class and only seeing student’s names, I can’t blame my peers for opting to keep their camera’s off. 

It’s difficult at times to be virtually present when a majority of your school day is spent sitting in front of a screen. 

Of my 137 classmates in my communications course, only a few have their cameras on during class. However, I understand that not everyone is willing to show their homes to their entire class. Every student has different living situations and the feeling of being perceived in your private space can simply be too much of an invasion.

If you don’t have a stable enough internet connection, or are competing with other members of your home for clear connection, having your camera on can cause some technological issues. Muting yourself and turning your camera off reduces the amount of bandwidth your computer needs to generate, making it easier to run smoothly if you are operating virtual distanced learning through an older computer model. 

It’s unfair of professors to require cameras to be turned on when it’s not likely that every student has the technology available to ensure a strong connection. Both students and professors should show consideration when a black screen is encountered. 

However, I still like to believe this school year holds hope for some human connection at Zoom university.

In my own personal experience, I still maintain in contact with my club sport dragon-boating team via weekly workout Zoom calls. Although we are unable to go out on the water and practice at Mother’s Beach, we engage in camaraderie across internet waves instead.

Whether it’s through creating a class Discord server, a class group chat or playing an investigative spaceship game, there are ways to reach out and feel less alone. The only difference is that it will take a bit more of an effort, but I believe it’s worth it.

A simple message to a classmate inviting them to a virtual study night or online game may make the school nights a bit less lonely.

It’s important to remember that although there seems to be a great disconnect, we are all students on the other side of the screen attempting to get by during an unprecedented semester.

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