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Work-from-home web bloopers

By LETTY JACINTO-LOPEZ, The Philippine STAR Published Dec 08, 2020 5:00 am

Who said you can’t teach old dogs new tricks? Senior Zoomers have committed unintended discretions before the mic and the camera. Some were so irritating that it was a test of nerves just to stay online.

Among retired folks, we celebrate each month by joining hands and sponsoring lunch or merienda-cena. It is a great way to eat, drink and be merry without breaking the bank because the bill is split among several hosts. 

COVID-19 stopped all of that and sent us packing into our homes.  What happened next?

We reluctantly, and with much trepidation, downloaded this app for a new web-based conferencing tool called Zoom where users could virtually meet, talk and see each other.

Reminder: If you intend to keep pace with the times, download the app and memorize initially just two icons:  audio (microphone) and the video (movie camera).

Your amusement ride starts from here.  Once you’ve mastered these icons, you will strive to avoid or minimize many of the virtual boo-boos.

Being a new internet gizmo, we’ve committed many unintended indiscretions before the microphone and the camera. Some were so irritating that it was a test of nerves just to stay online.

Your video is turned off. “I can’t see myself,” hollered one participant to which another replied, Ako rin!”  This happens a lot among seniors who are trying hard to adapt to this new normal.

Did you check your video? It might be turned off (with a red slash).

Showing and seeing your face is important in keeping that sense of presence and involvement in the meeting or gathering.

What is the obvious advantage of Zooming? You can dress down. The camera can only capture half of your body frame so how you’re dressed, from the waist down, is your own personal business.

Your audio is turned off or on mute. “What?”  I could see her lips moving but there was no sound. That’s because the audio was red-slashed, meaning you’re on mute mode. Click on the icon again to release the sound. When on a video call, every little sound in your background is going to be amplified. One time, we were praying the rosary online and this dog kept howling. Be considerate.  Mute yourself so unwanted noise is eliminated.

Your audio is on. Be aware that everybody can hear you. Don’t shout and don’t eat or munch noisily.  Isolate unnecessary noise. Close the door and inform your household that you are in conference so that they can answer the phone and not cause any disturbance or distraction. There’s nothing more irritating than hearing someone consulting with his doctor, arguing with his lawyer or giving instructions to the kitchen staff on today’s menu. Worse is losing your cool and blowing your top online. You are supposed to maintain silence.  If you cannot help multi-talking, by all means, mute yourself.

Once you’ve turned on your audio, you stayed quiet as a tomb“Are you still there?” Someone might throw that question out because you’ve been too quiet.  Although it’s a good idea to stay on mute, don’t let it be your constant setting. Give voice to your opinion and to what you’re thinking.  It may be tempting to keep mum but you joined this gathering because you have a reason to be in it.  Speak up.

Do not hog the whole airtime. Even if there are only four or six of you in the meeting, do not be tempted to use it as your own personal monologue platform. Unless what you’re sharing is so riveting and interesting that you deserve everybody’s undivided attention. Practice courtesy and when somebody else is talking, you sit tight and listen or raise your hand if you wish to interrupt.

You may dress up only for the top half of your outfit to be visible. What is the obvious advantage of Zooming?  You can dress down.  You can wear shorts, leggings, pajamas, slippers, flip flops, even go barefoot.  The camera can only capture half of your body frame so how you’re dressed, from the waist down, is your own personal business. BUT...never stand up. One Zoom-er forgot. She stood up to change her blouse and exposed her undergarment in full view of 180 shocked participants. Tap the video icon off (red slash) if you need to stand up to get something or do something else.

You aren’t looking into the camera. Everybody is guilty of this.  You’ve become so absorbed with what you want to share on the screen that your gaze is focused on the screen or on the paper that you are reading, forgetting to look up at where the camera is. The built-in camera is at the top of your computer. Remember to look up at its eye (color green) so you can give a semblance of “I see you, and yes!  I’m talking to you.”

Choose an appropriate background setting. A friend decided to set up her laptop in the guest room using a plain wall as her background.  Perfect.  Until the camera caught a toilet brush leaning on the plain background wall.

Choose your location.  Set up your laptop with a simple, clutter-free background. Don’t choose a low table because the camera will only get a view of your knees or legs or your belly. Don’t show your laundry line, avoid busy backdrops and if possible, never set up your Zoom in your bedroom.  Your sleeping quarters should remain private. If you lack space in the house, focus the camera on your work area even if it's as narrow as a pantry.  Add a row of books or a little planter pot, or a wall of your favorite photos or prints. You can also choose a virtual background included in the app like the Aurora Borealis or a beachfront. Why not use your own logo and, to personalize it further, choose a background from your personal photo gallery?

Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

You will have gained (or regained) confidence, at your fingertips.

And here’s a bonus: The thrill of hearing and seeing your kids and grandkids cheer you on.