Smith: Be respectful on video calls

Editor-in-Chief Sage Smith calls on people to remember to be respectful while on video calls. 

Sage Smith

In a world of video calls, it seems as if social etiquette has shifted, or rather disappeared.

What happened to respect? It’s not that hard to keep your eyes up and phone down. Taking notes is more than OK, but if you’re on a small enough video call, let those you’re speaking with know your eyes are looking down at a notebook, not notifications.

Something else I have found distracting and disrespectful is when someone I’m on a video call with talks to other people in the room. Of course it is alright if I’m interviewing someone who needs to chat with their kids for a minute. I’m really talking more about fellow students while on these video call meetings.

If you are on a video call that lasts for an hour, and you spend 20 minutes of it talking to your roommate and 15 minutes of it visibly staring at your phone, you’re doing it wrong.

Imagine the pre-COVID world. When you were meeting with your academic adviser or in an interview, how did you behave? I would bet you maintained eye contact, didn’t play with your hair or literally get up and walk away.

I know it’s exhausting sitting stationary on one meeting after the next. I do it all day long. I’m just confused as to where all the social etiquette expectations went. It’s to the point where I’m seeing people essentially completely ignore who they’re on a call with.

In regard to clothing, I don’t think that’s as important as how you behave, but it is something to think about. If it is a more formal video call, an interview or a meeting with your boss, wear a nice shirt. You can keep the sweatpants on. I have literally worn a nice floral dress, my hair pulled back nicely, with baggy sweatpants.

It may not be for a while, but the world will go back to some form of normal, with in-person interactions. Just a heads up, you will not get that internship or leave any kind of positive impression if you keep acting as if who you’re speaking to can’t see you.

This may all sound a bit harsh, but I physically cringe when I witness these behaviors on video calls. I don’t give myself credit for much, but I pride myself in being respectful and socially aware. It’s really not that difficult to focus and be kind to who you’re speaking to.

Now don’t think I’m talking about all video calls. Some of these calls are with friends or are just more informal. Read the virtual room. There are plenty of calls where I have to say, “Just wait, let me respond to this text,” or I’m twisting my hair the whole time.

I and the person I’m talking with during those more casual calls understand I am not being rude. They know me. We’d both prefer to pause the conversation for a moment to allow me to send that text rather than me not pay attention and them have to repeat themselves.

So, on your next video call: Keep your phone out of reaching distance, lock your door so your roommates can’t interrupt and stay engaged in the conversation.