Virtual Fatigue


I’m exhausted, y’all. Like most of you, I’ve spent the better part of three weeks adjusting to a new normal. A normal of #saferathome and #socialdistancing. A normal of staying put. A normal of hand washing and safety measures. A normal of schooling kids from the kitchen table. 

Virtual Fatigue There’s a virtual normal too. In this age of technology, we are finding new and innovative ways to connect with one another. There’s church on a live YouTube feed, virtual museum tours of places far and wide, live Facebook videos at zoos across the US, and Zoom meetings for everything from work to friend hangouts. Between work for me, church for my family, and school for both of my elementary schoolers, the virtual connections have gotten overwhelming. 

I am grateful to work a job that aims toward my strengths; I spend hours every day talking to people in person. In recent weeks, that very thing has become harder to do. Face-to-face counseling/advising sessions are now hours of Zoom meetings. Reading the room, recognizing nonverbal cues, and basic conversation has become challenging, and makes even the most normal of conversations awkward.

It’s a new world out there.

A world that leaves me mentally exhausted when I haven’t left my house all day. I know I find all the warning signs of burnout in my behavior: highly emotional, irritable, sleepy, etc. It does not make for a fun household when mom, teacher, and boss (all me) is on edge all the time.

I wish I had tried and true answers, but I am just now even determining what it is that has made me so worn out these past few weeks. The virtual fatigue is real, and I’m looking for ways to make sure it doesn’t get the best of me.

Here are the things I’ve found that work:

Get out. Go outside — sunshine and breeze do great things for us. You can find me sitting in my driveway in an old camp chair when the virtual life just gets to be too much. My WiFi works in the driveway as well as it does in the house, and my laptop can come out too.

Call someone. It’s not the same as a face-to-face interaction, but it does take away some of the awkwardness. If you can, call someone familiar — you know the type. Call the people that are easy to talk to and laugh with. 

Take breaks. Don’t schedule back to back appointments for yourself, and if you do, make sure you give yourself breathers in between. I’ve also seen people who go technology free at night and on the weekends, as the phone/computer is no longer the respite that it once was.

Practice single-tasking. In virtual space, we tend to want to pile things on things by multi-tasking. I want to write an email while I’m on the phone or plan the next activity in a Zoom meeting. Nope. Focus on one thing at a time.

Above all else, be gracious. Be gracious with the person who is new to web conferencing and can’t find the mute button. Be gracious with your kids when they need to borrow your computer to do an assignment. Be gracious with yourself when you’re too tired to virtually meet up with your friends at night. Put on grace in the morning as you stumble into the home office or one-room schoolhouse.

We certainly didn’t choose our current situation, and all of us are working our hardest. I certainly wasn’t made to live my life in a virtual space, even when it’s our best answer right now. I’m longing for the day where the virtual noise is silenced by a belly laugh with friends over a cup of coffee. I am praying I won’t take it for granted when things are back to normal. Until then, I’ll try to follow my own advice when the virtual load is too heavy.