Should you show your face on Zoom or not?

By Hadassah Umbarger, Staff Writer

Last year if I had shown you a Zoom meme, it would have made no sense to you. Things changed a little bit over the end of the spring semester when all of our classes were moved online. Thankfully we can be in-person now for our classes but we will be Zooming for the remainder of the semester after Thanksgiving, and who knows — maybe in the future video-calling will become more of an everyday occurrence.

We’re all pretty good at Zooming now and we’ve learned the different functions that we can use. Surely you’ve watched someone cycle through the virtual backgrounds or maybe you’ve done it yourself. (If you’ve not done it, you secretly want to. Don’t lie to yourself.)

Two buttons that get a lot of use are the mic and camera buttons. These, like all the other buttons, have their uses. But I think we overuse them a lot.

It can be polite to mute when your siblings are, oh, I don’t know, chasing each other full speed down the hallway (just hypothetically). Or when the train conductor is a block away and decides that it is a lovely day to make the entire neighborhood deaf. And then you can unmute when you have something to add, or a question to ask.

The camera button is the one that gets on my nerves, though. Like the mute button, there are scenarios where it is polite to turn your camera off. If you forgot to grab your coffee before sitting down for class, or if your sibling got chased down the hallway and into your room (again, just hypothetically) and you need to evict them, then feel free to turn your camera off for a second.

But we (your fellow students and your teachers,) should not be deprived of your face for a whole class for a few reasons.

Mainly, I feel like it’s just common courtesy. If you went to an in-person class, would you bring a box to put over your head so that we couldn’t see you? No. Even in your boring classes, we can see you while you hide your phone under the table. (That’s a topic for a different article, though.)

Unless you’re chiming in rather often, there’s no way for us to know that you’re actually in class. How do we know that you didn’t just click into class and then go back to sleep or out to get breakfast? Defend your honor!

I understand the temptation to just turn off your camera. I don’t like the idea of people watching my face, and if I just have the class playing in the background then I can maybe get something else done. Multitasking!

But if nothing else, do it out of respect for your professors. I imagine that teaching to a computer screen is hard enough. It must be even harder if you can’t see the faces of your students on that screen. If you wouldn’t video call a friend and then mute yourself and turn off your camera, don’t do that to your professors and peers.

And honestly, multitasking is impossible. You’re only going to end up doing two things, your class and whatever else you try to accomplish, sloppily.

I know it’s really hard to turn on your camera when none of your classmates turn theirs on, but I guarantee if you turn yours on, someone else will turn theirs on. Be the first brave soul to show your professor that you are there, and others will follow.

All this being said, if you’re quarantined and your face is being projected at the front of the classroom, then I think it’s ok to turn your camera off. You should leave it on before class starts, and turn it back on whenever you need to ask a question or answer a question. But if the professor is lecturing while you act as the PowerPoint, then I think it’s ok to excuse yourself. Don’t disappear though— it’s embarrassing when the teacher calls on you and you aren’t there.

PHOTO: Hadassah Umbarger, Staff Writer