Since we are all still feeling our way around remote work and online meetings, I thought that I would ask my high school junior for a few tips. Actually, I asked her what might be a good way to step away from a Zoom session without the host catching on.
Some of the kid tricks are obvious: taking a photo of yourself and posting it in place of the live video. Another I like was recording yourself nodding as if paying attention or blinking every now and then; played back on a shared screen, no one would be the wiser.
But the fast one that I liked the most was perhaps the simplest. All you had to do was make a black-colored document and in a generic sans-serif font, write the word “Reconnecting.” Slap that up in place of your background image, and then walk off to nap, snack, or play video games.
With my work on the Plain Sight Project, a slavery database of eastern Long Island, I have taken part as a speaker in a handful online talks this year with its co-director, Donnamarie Barnes of Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island. When it is not my turn to talk, I sometimes let my eyes wander over the participants. Some are paying close attention, some are typing, and some have their computer on a table and are making dinner in the background. Some of their video panels go dark for a bit while they go for a smoke or answer nature’s calls, I assume, but I can’t be sure.
We have all gotten a lot more casual, protected by distance. During a prerecorded political podcast this week, I swear I heard a toilet flushing in the background at one point, a timely and appropriate punctuation, if you ask me.