Zoom Etiquette: How to Make a Good Impression

Student Life

COVID-19 wreaked havoc on student life. The life we once knew and loved was thrown out the window. Our world's dire situation forced everyone to adapt to a new set of rules, requiring strict compliance. Due to these unconventional requirements, an unknown lifestyle was thrust upon people in a matter of days. Our old ways were quickly set aside as we tried to act in accordance with the new restrictive order. As the world was seemingly coming to a halt, students were introduced to a new way of social "interaction"- Zoom. This new media enveloped our lives for the past three months. The app replaced all classes, forcing us to blankly stare at our computers for endless hours. As we navigate the world of Zoom, here are some rules of etiquette one must follow:

1. Always show up to class in proper attire.

Try your best to look presentable; specifically, do not wear pajamas or any type of tight t-shirt. Instead, brush your hair and wear a school acceptable outfit (one that would not be deemed inappropriate). Surprisingly, during my online classes, many students attended the meetings without any garments on. This type of behavior is unacceptable and the failure to comply with such a simple rule is a poor reflection onto oneself. It should go unsaid that clothing is a requirement for schooling.

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2. If your classmates' cameras are on, yours should be too.

It might appear disrespectful if one fails to turn on their camera. Others might assume you are inattentive or may even think you are asleep. Teachers will speculate inappropriate behavior, which can consequently result in cold calling. Do not fall victim to their oddly specific, pointless questions and give them the satisfaction of being incorrect. With your camera on, teachers will see that you are paying attention and not up to any mischief.

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3. If you are not speaking, MUTE YOUR MICROPHONE.

In my experience, students tend to forget that other people can hear them. Many talk to their parents, scream at their siblings, or browse Tik Tok during the lesson. In the middle of my boring math class, a student blasted music through her phone speaker, which prompted an awkward conversation with the teacher. Her face immediately resembled that of a ripe tomato. Because of her unfortunate actions, she promised that her microphone will forever be off. I encourage that you are always on mute to spare yourself from possible embarrassment.

4. Your camera must show your entire face- not just your forehead.

It is rude not to show your entire face. To avoid this, simply line up your camera's view with your face. Do not lounge on your bed and show everyone the ceiling. Just think- if you were talking to someone would it be acceptable if they covered their entire face? No; therefore, do not hide your face and attempt to justify a poor camera setup. When the teacher is talking, it is preferred that they see who is listening. Talking to the ceiling is not fun.

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5. You must know when to change backgrounds.

This last rule often goes overlooked; however, its purpose is tremendous. If you are working at home in your kitchen, or any other space that is filled with movement, use one of the pictures Zoom has as a default background. This prevents any unnecessary distractions and promises for a great meeting. Inspired mainly by my mistakes, I strongly urge you to utilize this feature.

For instance, picture my mom taking out the vacuum and diligently going to work behind me. Besides the terrible noise escaping from the ginormous machine, the view of her angrily plowing the floor was not a pleasurable sight. Please, if you were to follow any of these rules, let it be this one. I was never more embarrassed in my life.

portrait of a graphic designer working at her computer, photographed by jamie bannon photography.

6. When logging in, use your proper name.

Although it may be hilarious to enter the call with a funny alias, it is expected that it be your full, real name. Sometimes in class you must pick your battles and getting in trouble for a fake name is not worth it. Based upon personal experience, specifically when the teacher mandates that it must be a proper name, do not even CONSIDER anything else. I promise that very little laughs ensue, for absolutely no one is paying attention in the first place.

7. Be on time!

Similar to arriving on time to class, zoom meetings are no different. They require promptness, attentiveness, and an eagerness to learn. Despite the unusual setting, class remains the same and is to be treated with respect. Because our circumstances prevent any lame excuses to condone our tardiness, arriving promptly for class is harder than ever. In this regard, we must treat this rule with more diligence than usual. Surely, this goes without being said, but please be on time for your classes! If possible, be ready to go and be signed in five minutes prior to its start.

8. Find the location with the best lighting.

As you try to locate the best setting for the call, strive to make sure the lighting is perfect. This ought to allow for an excellent meeting, especially when people present can see your face. If the light quality is poor, it may be hard for the camera to accurately depict your face, which in turn will deprive people on the call from seeing your facial expressions. The hope is that with zoom we can have something very similar to an in-person interaction; however, if everyone’s face is concealed, this aim will not be possible.

Personally, if class is very early in the morning, and you do not have time to brush your hair or change out of pajamas, seek an area with bad lighting. Typically, I sit somewhere with windows behind me so no one can my terrible appearance. I have witnessed other students use this brilliant method and I recommend utilizing it in times of despair (when you do not look put together whatsoever).

Close up of a woman with glasses working on computer.

This modern etiquette rule book is hard to fathom primarily due to its sudden creation. To imagine that five months ago our future would hold a global, deadly pandemic and endless days in solitude is shocking. Our current world appears to have fallen into the plot of a Suzanne Collins novel. Similar to her books, society has undergone many changes amid this time of crisis; specifically, the way we socialize.

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We no longer have to worry about the pants we wear or shoes, but rather the background, camera angle, shirt, etc. With every interaction being made behind a camera, the method of which we physically judge someone has been altered. Nevertheless, the abrupt genesis of online school has elicited new rules, which are expected to be followed. Even though it is not the most pressing issue of its time, it never hurts to make a good impression and build up a respectable reputation. As we endure these unusual times, and move entirely online, it is extremely important to know how to gracefully navigate our Zoom interactions. With this new form of socializing, one must learn a contemporary etiquette rule book.

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Caroline Crowdell
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Caroline is an outgoing seventeen-year-old who loves meeting new people. She enjoys playing sports, reading fictional narratives, and spending time with her three younger sisters. Caroline plans to educate fellow members of her generation through journalism, in an attempt to keep them cognizant of important national issues. In school, she loves learning foreign languages and discussing literary works with her class.