Families and friends that vide

Image supplied

Families and friends that video-chat together stay together

Life in lockdown doesn’t mean that you can’t still see friends and family. But don’t forget basic good video-chat manners.

Families and friends that vide

Image supplied

Zoom, Google Hangouts, Houseparty, Skype. In the new world order of social distancing and lockdowns the names of video communication platforms are rolling off our tongues with the easy familiarity of something that’s been a part of our lives for years.

Meeting-loving corporate types have, unsurprisingly, embraced these technologies with alacrity. And scurrying right behind them are moms, dads, grannies, grandpas, aunties, uncles, friends and lovers. In fact, pretty much anyone who is desperate to keep in contact with family members or talk to someone who isn’t living under the same roof.

Church groups are using it to keep in contact with parishioners. Grandparents are video-chatting to their grandkids a few blocks away. Doctors are doing remote consultations. Friends are playing games. Book club members are Zooming. Lovers separated by distance are sharing intimate moments on Google Hangouts.

But it has all happened so quickly that the customs and etiquette around video-based gatherings have been left behind. Here are some tips for bringing good manners and decorum to your video chats, particularly when it involved family.

Make sure you’re present at the appointed time

At 10 seconds to the appointed time when everyone is due to get together, don’t start powering up your laptop and trying to get to grips with the technology. It’s off-putting for the group if someone keeps interrupting to ask “can you see me’? Or “am I loud enough?”

Get your camera angles right

Nobody’s expecting you to be Steven Spielberg. But the whole idea of using a video platform is to see each other, so think about where you are in relation to the camera on your device. A loving close-up of your nostril hairs is off-putting for the others. So too is a super-low angle that emphasises your double chin. Or  an angle that focuses on your receding hairline.

And don’t sit with your back to a window, as all people will see is a vague-featured silhouette. Mind you, if you haven’t combed your hair since the first day or lockdown that may not be a bad thing.

Keep your annoying facial habits to yourself

Be aware of habits such as licking your lips, running you hand through your hair constantly and twitching your nose. In the good old days of chatting face-to-face in a group (remember them…) people tended not to notice these idiosyncrasies too much. But on camera they’re emphasised and obvious.

If you’ve ever watched TV interviews with English Premier League players and managers where, for some reason, they’re constantly scratching their noses and faces you’ll know what I mean!

Never forget that you’re on camera

We’ve all pulled up at a traffic light and been appalled to see the smartly dressed bloke in the other car suddenly start to dig in his nose. It’s because we sometimes forget where we are and that others can see us. Don’t make the same mistake when the family Zoom gathering has dragged on for 30 minutes already and you’re bored out of your mind.

Also don’t roll your eyes when granny makes another silly statement. This time you’re not behind her back and the crazy old bat will write you out of her will!

Wait your turn to talk

In my family nobody’s Italian, Greek or Portuguese. Yet they still all talk loudly and over each other. In real life you can mentally tune out of some conversations and into others. But in a video chat it’s a different ballgame. 

Say what you need to say and then pause so that someone else can jump in. If a pause is too subtle for your family, say something like “what do you guys think”? This will hopefully cue the next person into the conversation.

And remember to put yourself on ‘mute’ when you’re not speaking, so that the side conversation with your spouse, or your dog’s barking, doesn’t intrude unnecessarily.

So remember: families and friends that video-chat together, stay together – hopefully.