July 6, 2020

Burned Out on Being “Connected”

Sunday worship on Facebook. Coffee hour on Zoom. Staff meetings on Teams. At first, it was great to know that we could connect without being physically present. It felt like a bridge from our current situation until that time when we could be together again.

Then I started feeling exhausted. I couldn’t figure out why. I talked with friends, and they shared the following comments:

“I love being able to participate in the Holy Eucharist via Facebook, but there aren’t a lot of us that watch live, and I feel like I need to be commenting throughout the service, or I’ll look like I’m not really engaged.”

“I’m always aware of any lapses in conversation during Zoom coffee hour, and feel like I need to fill the silence with something interesting or funny. It’s become one of the least relaxing times of my Sunday morning.”

“Everyone is always watching during an all-staff meeting. I literally can’t escape anyone’s gaze. At least in a conference room, the attention was focused on the speaker and I could let my guard down. Those days are gone.”

Turns out that there is some science to back this up. We feel anxiety that we may not even be aware of. What if someone comes to the door? What if my spouse forgets I’m on a call and walks onscreen in some state of undress? What if the baby wakes up early? What if my overloaded internet connection freezes at a critical moment?

There’s also the fact that our minds are working overtime to process all the cues that we normally process subconsciously when we’re together in person. There are sound delays so that someone’s mouth doesn’t sync with their words. There are the aforementioned silences – usually seen as a normal part of conversation, and now something that we have to discern. Did the sound cut out? Is she just thinking? Did the screen freeze? And finally, staring at yourself on screen.

We’re all figuring this out as we go, and I hope we can extend some grace to each other.

  • It’s OK to not comment during worship. It’s OK to pray and let that be enough.
  • It’s OK to not be the one to “save” coffee hour. If there is some silence, someone else will say something, and coffee hour will continue. Or someone won’t say something, and coffee hour will end. It’s OK. It’s coffee hour.
  • It’s OK to switch your video off during a staff meeting to stand up and stretch.
  • It’s OK to ask if another video call is necessary. How about a phone call? Or a well-written email?

It sounds somewhat ridiculous to have to state common sense ideas, but sometimes we need permission to do what we know would be good for us. Permission granted.