Too close

Jeremy Bailenson claims that video conferencing is exhausting because we cannot control the distance we keep from other people. We stare at their faces from up close at our screen and they stare at us. During online communication, our personal space is invaded by others as we invade their personal spaces.

This is an interesting point. I must admit that it does feel a bit voyeuristic to look at other peoples’ faces from closer by that we would in reality. On the other hand, the lesser quality of the image projected takes away a lot of the effect.

Nevertheless, I saw this effect happening to others. I remember a situation in which I communicated online with a group of people who were present in the same space. What they saw was my enormous head projected on a screen, having a conversation with them. At some point, I talked to a young teenage boy who was absolutely petrified by my huge head, although we had met before in real life. He just stared at the screen in silence. After some prompting by my wife who was near him, he did start to talk but throughout the conversation, he looked very intimidated.