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How to Keep Yourself Amused on Zoom

The lessons I’ve learned in 2020 as a university professor

Photo: Sam Wasson/Stringer/Getty Images

Zoom has taken over our lives and will continue to rule for the foreseeable future. But if those meetings drag on, what games can you play to keep yourself amused? After nine months of this, I have some suggestions.

Where will they end up?

You are in a meeting and suddenly someone gets up and starts walking. They are holding their laptop and so you can see right up their nose at the ceiling going by. A fun little game is to predict 1) where they are going and 2) how long they will take to get there. It really raises the whole energy level of the meeting.

Who’s paying attention?

The nature of Zoom meetings is that you can only see someone’s headshot. Unlike in-person meetings, it is therefore not immediately apparent whether attendees are paying attention or doing something else.

Can you tell who is really paying attention? The signs I use are as follows:

  • Do they have too much attention? Anyone starting intently at the screen is not actually paying attention. Your average Zoom speaker is not that interesting, so if a person is rapt, it is likely they are doing something else.
  • Do their emotions match the situation? Someone is saying, “and if we are lucky we may only lose $8 million this quarter” and there is someone there smiling. This happens. They aren’t paying attention.

If you notice any of these “tells,” the appropriate response, and I know this from being a university professor, is to then ask the most certainly distracted person what they think and/or if they are happy to take this unusually complicated and arduous project on. Hijinks ensue.

Who’s messaging who?

This is a good one. When we met in person, if someone said something stupid or typical, you could glance at a co-worker and roll your eyes — “Can you believe this guy?” For Zoom, that is not really possible. So people resort to the private Zoom chat. Now, this is already a dangerous activity because Zoom has ways of causing you to mistake who you are talking to. But what this also means is that whenever people are doing this, what they are discussing must be really good.

Trying to catch a private chat in action is one of the most fulfilling Zoom games there is. If you see one person looking like they are typing something wait until they stop and then immediately search your screen to see if someone else’s eyes light up right before they start typing. Once you have your mark, it is easy to confirm whether a chat is going on.

In this situation, you can then use the Zoom chat function to out someone with a “did you mean to send that to everyone?” in the chat. Then you can watch their face. Priceless.

These games keep me amused but I am sure you have invented more. Let me know in the comments. I need to stay entertained until this is all over.

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Debugger is a publication from Medium about consumer technology and gadgets.

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Joshua Gans

Joshua Gans

Skoll Chair in Innovation & Entrepreneurship at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto and Chief Economist, Creative Destruction Lab.

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