How to Embrace Zoom Meetings as Social Opportunities

Socializing on Zoom Meetings

Video or Zoom calls are now a core feature of the business world. Some of us vastly prefer these meetings to the traditional, in-person ones, while others of us find them annoying. Whatever your stance may be, there is no denying that Zoom meetings are here to stay, thanks to recent global events and massive shifts in technology.

These same factors have also led to a massive increase in the number of people working from home. Without a doubt, working from home has clear benefits, and many people find it far more convenient than heading to a physical location to work. However, just like any major change, remote work also introduces some new issues that some people haven’t considered.

A person’s workplace is a major source of socialization. For some people, it may be the only reliable form of day-to-day social interaction they can access. Working from home, with all of its pros, may lead to more people feeling lonely and socially isolated. Loneliness and health typically go hand-in-hand. Depending on the person, feeling lonely could have serious physical and mental health impacts. But how do we address this?

The answer might just lie in a Zoom meeting.

When someone is feeling isolated, virtual networking opportunities can be an excellent method of fulfilling their social needs—if used appropriately. We’ll dive into these and other remote socializing tips that can help keep your social battery full even during remote work or other periods of isolation.

Who Loneliness Affects

Some people are better at handling being alone than others, but almost every human needs some form of social interaction. Experts often describe socialization as a basic human need, just like eating or sleeping. Because of this, experiencing a break-up or similar issue can cause reactive loneliness, which is often extremely painful and overwhelming. Some people regularly feel alone, meaning they have chronic loneliness. If reactive loneliness is like a headache, chronic loneliness is a migraine.

Chronic loneliness sets in when a person doesn’t have the emotional, physical, mental, or financial resources to engage in social contact with others. In some cases, outside factors can also be responsible. The pandemic revealed just how important ongoing social contact is. While some individuals were able to adjust well to the lockdown, many felt trapped, disconnected, and alone.

Post-pandemic surveys reveal that over half of U.S. adults are lonely, with minority racial groups and people with lower incomes feeling the most isolated. Additionally, young adults are twice as likely to feel lonely than seniors. People who have mental health problems are over twice as likely to report feeling lonely than those without such issues. The most prevalent conditions are stress, anxiety, and depression.

And here’s another issue: people can feel alone even when other people are nearby. For example, riding a bus with other people and seeing happy friendships or romantic relationships can actually make you feel more alone. Even if you are present in Zoom meetings, that may not be enough to stop feeling lonely.

The Impact of Loneliness

A lack of contact with others can have some serious consequences on both physical and mental health.

Studies link the perception of social isolation to many issues, including depression, cognitive decline, impaired immunity, poor sleep quality, worse cardiovascular function, and impaired executive function. Basically, loneliness can impact nearly every aspect of a person’s health. Beyond this, a study of over 580,000 adults found that social isolation increases the risk of premature death from every cause across every race. These findings place the threat of loneliness next to issues like smoking and lack of access to care in terms of magnitude.

Medical experts have attempted to uncover why isolation appears to hurt the body as much as it does by studying white blood cells. They found that loneliness basically triggers a long-term “fight-or-flight” response that causes the body to experience constant stress. This leads to worse immune system function and more inflammation, which both have links to a massive number of diseases and illnesses.

The Role of Video Calls

Just as Zoom calls facilitate business for remote work, they—and similar services—may be the answer to social isolation. But how does someone use a video call to fulfill their need for social interaction?

The first thing is to view them as opportunities. If you’re someone who tends to take a backseat and let others participate more during the call, don’t be afraid to start giving your input and becoming a bit more active. Having people respond to you, even in a small manner, can go a long way in fighting feelings of social isolation.

Additionally, find ways to use these applications in smaller-scale interactions. Meetings aren’t the most effective way to alleviate the feeling of social isolation, especially if many people are on the call and individuals get skipped over. Limiting calls to a fewer number of participants can allow each person to weigh in appropriately and engage more, leading to a more active conversation and feeling “seen.”

Similarly, it used to be quite common for offices to have a gathering area—like a water cooler—where people could meet up and talk about their days. Unfortunately, many workplaces do not have areas like these. Even if they do, you can’t access them if you work from home.

Employers can address this by allowing employees to call each other throughout the day and engage in casual conversations. While this may seem like it would limit productivity, numerous studies have proven that feeling socially fulfilled actually boosts productivity and the overall quality of work. When working on a team project, having an ongoing video call so that everyone can interact in real time can also be extremely beneficial and fight social isolation.

Outside of a work context, there are plenty of remote socializing tips. Video calls can be used in literally any context where someone would typically meet in real life. A classic example of this would be playing games with friends, but it can also be used in a spectrum of activities. Host a movie night and just sync up the film with everyone on the call. Instead of texting or calling on the phone, add in a video call whenever possible.

The Obstacles

In an ideal world, video calls would easily slot into everyone’s lives and social isolation would be a thing of the past. Unfortunately, certain obstacles can make it difficult for this to occur. First, the average employee isn’t in a position to influence most Zoom meetings or enact change in their workplace. Additionally, that assumes that everyone else is similarly on board with using video calls for social interaction. The best way to combat this is to simply raise concerns with a supervisor and trustworthy coworkers.

Beyond that, each application has wildly different user interfaces and features, so there’s often a knowledge barrier. Taking the initiative and educating yourself and others on how to use the most common options, like Zoom, Skype, or Discord, is one way of tackling this issue.

Ultimately, remote socialization is a relatively new aspect of life for many people, so there’s going to be a rough transition period. Those who can adapt will find brand-new ways to get involved in their communities and stave off feelings of isolation. However, that’s easier said than done.

If you’re struggling with feelings of loneliness, consider speaking with a professional about your issues. Having someone you can talk to directly about your issues can be immensely beneficial, especially if they’re able to help you with co-occurring issues like depression, anxiety, or stress.

At Restore Mental Health, our experts go out of their way to help you address issues like loneliness that may be compromising your mental health. To start feeling better, get in touch any time.