Das Bunte Leben

Keep a straight face

Keep a straight face, please (Text over Photo of a woman in a video conference, who covers her eyes with her hand) ©2023 Johanna Ringe www.johannaringe.com

Do you participate in a video call occasionally? Or even every day, because of your work? Well, then you probably know what I am talking about today. Please, try to keep a straight or neutral face. Especially if it seems to get more difficult every second… People might be repetitive, or dumb, or boring, or jammer a lot. I know. It is getting harder and harder to bear.

But they do have feelings and have a right to be heard.

Just as you do have a right to be heard whenever you feel like complaining about them again, for an hour straight, to your friends. Do they listen to you? Or do they look at their phones, at a book, scribble down to do lists or even just talk to their cat – all while you are pouring your heart out? No? Do they listen to you? Do you feel seen, and heard and loved? Do you feel respected in your boredom or your anger or your pain?

Great, congratulations on having polite friends that are able and -most importantly- willing to control their faces!

If they are not, you will be accustomed to see vacant stares after twenty minutes of repeating just how tragically mislead your boss is. Or complaining about the price of mobile phones. Or rehashing the discussions you had with your ex. Well, vacant stares or annoyed sighs are better than going away. Aren’t they? No? You feel hurt? Aww, poor baby. Of course, your complaints are much more important than theirs… right. No, they are not. Yes, I am being sarcastic. Yes, I know this is not considered polite behaviour in our society.

But I am fed up with having to witness
your boredom hurting other people!

Some people just do not have their faces under control. I happen to be one of them. It is extremely difficult for me to keep a straight face. So, in a video call you will likely witness me frowning, sighing, smiling, and closing my eyes. But you will also witness me listening attentively to people who need to be listened to. Speaking the truth, even if it is unpopular. And you will see me being empathic. Up to laughing with them, crying with them, and encouraging them. Because I care.

If I do not care, I will not be on that call.
Or I will mute myself and turn the camera off.

Yes, this is being polite. Because of the 5 or 50 people in that call not one needs to see me talking to my cat or listen to my husband asking me something. This is actually another thing I wanted to mention: if your phone rings in the middle of a video conference just mute yourself before you do anything else. And if your children cry, your dog barks, the neighbour starts to drill a hole in your wall – just mute yourself. Please. Do not be rude.

Muting and unmuting ourselves is not a nuisance. It is a necessity.

I bet you have been in a call, where someone had a bad connection. Those scrambling sounds, those cuts, and jumps… annoying, right? You know what would have been better? Them just listening in, turning mic and camera off, and maybe writing in the chat about their bad connection. (Do not even get me started about echoes… and yes, I am aware of myself causing them, too…)
All those things are the basics of video conference behaviour. Nothing new under the sun, I know.

Being aware of your own face on that screen is important, too.

Because not everyone uses the speaker mode. Many people like a good gallery view! And then they are aware of your boredom, your distractedness, and the impolite faces you are pulling. Especially in confidential circumstances, if someone is confessing to feel low, or being hurt, please make an effort. Keep a straight face. If you are not able or willing to, just turn your camera and your mic off. It is so easy, and maybe you will keep some more friends that way.

Because they can see you, too! Remember that.

Showing your impatience and your boredom carelessly is just rude. Please be courteous. Especially if you happen to be dealing with highly sensitive persons, because they are not able to ignore you.
And if you can’t be bothered, just stay off that video call.
We might miss you and remember you fondly.
Wouldn’t that be nice?

Heartfelt, wherever you are,

Unterschrift Johanna (c) Johanna Ringe 2014 ff. www.dein-buntes-leben.de