My best friend tried — without warning— to video call me over the weekend. I let it ring off, obviously. Was he mad?
I was sat on the couch at the time, having not showered for two days, enjoying the first truly legitimate excuse to stay indoors and watch Netflix that we’ve ever had.
This personal intrusion into my sanctuary of wellness was both rude and uncalled for.
Six weeks ago, you’d have been called crazy if you even tried to ring someone instead of WhatsApping them, let alone initiating a video call. FaceTime requests were hastily followed by messages saying “Sorry! Hit the wrong button!”
But now, suddenly, the world has decided that it wants to see what everyone else is doing while they’re on the phone.
Zoom, House Party, FaceTime, conference calls. It’s everywhere. Social distancing could have been an opportunity to reset our routines, find some space and reflect on what matters. Instead, we’re all being beamed into each other’s bedrooms and dining-table-offices.
“I just tried to call you.” Came the follow-up message. My friend was annoyed that I hadn’t picked up. But, as I was quick to reassure him: had he turned up at my door unannounced, asking to come in to my living room, he’d have received a similar response.
We are living in unprecedented times, but the absolute worst of the (admittedly trivial) changes we’re having to make, is that video calling has become the new norm. And it’s the hill I’m willing to die on.
My aversion to video calling is two-fold. First, it’s not a superior technology. It just looks like it is.
Sure, we can do video calling, but unless you have super-fast broadband and a powerful router, video calls quickly descend into frust
Hold on, let me move.
I said things get really frus
The second reason to dislike video calls is that they represent an invasion of privacy. The beauty of a phone call is that it doesn’t matter if you’re in your bed or the bath, dressed in a three-piece suit or Speedos. All you have to worry about is what you and everyone else is saying.
Now, like a live version of MTV Cribs, we have to invite our colleagues directly into our homes. We have to tidy up. We have to get dressed (at least from the waist up), and we have to spend 10 minutes positioning a laptop camera that is apparently made using the back of a spoon.
Telephone calls were once a great, anonymous and egalitarian form of communication. Unencumbered by the visual, we were free to focus on the aural.
Heads of state used to be able to decide the fate of nations dressed in their jammies. Business deals could be done in dressing gowns. But now?
Now, we’re all sat in video meetings, reflexively scratching our jaws, staring at our own mugs thinking: Is that what my face looks like to other people?
And that, really, is the kicker. Next time you’re on a group video call, have a look at the other faces on your screen. You’ll see that pretty much everyone (me included) is looking at themselves.
In short, we might as well all be sat on a regular phone call while staring into a mirror.
As Jeff Goldblum’s Dr Ian Malcolm, said in Jurassic Park: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should.”
Disagree? I’d be happy to discuss it. On the phone.