Personal space

While the software has been an essential tool for productivity, learning, and social interaction, something about being on videoconference all day seems particularly exhausting, and the term “Zoom Fatigue” caught on quickly. In this article, I focus on nonverbal overload as a potential cause for fatigue, and provide four arguments outlining how various aspects of the current Zoom interface likely lead to psychological consequences.

~ Jeremy N. Bailenson from,

This is more science-y than usual for this ‘ol blog. That’s a link to a journal article, (albeit not a peer-reviewed, “real” Journal-with-a-capital-J,) which presents an actual theory about “Zoom fatigue.” We all know it’s real, but why?

There are four parts to the theory. But the one that jumped out as glaringly obvious once I’d read it is about personal space. The distance around oneself within which another person’s presence begins to feel intimate varies among cultures. Americans like a goodly full arm’s length, and—my personal experience and opinion here—Europeans are cool with noticeably less. Regardless of the specifics, if people are in your personal space, that gets tiresome. Not “omg this is lame” tiresome, but physically tiring. (That’s apparently settled psychology and science.) Guess what? It seems the apparent size of the people on your screen triggers our brain’s perception of “how close is this person?”