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‘Zoom Fatigue’ As Autism Analogue?

Max Sparrow noticed something interesting about a BBC story describing so-called “Zoom fatigue” (also noted by C. M. Condo about a similar National Geographic story): the strains and stresses people are experiencing as a result of all these video meetings is not unlike what actually-autistic people experience much of the time.

I’d be interested to learn if people experiencing Zoom fatigue also report any sensation of having to camouflage these reactions during the meetings themselves—in which case we’d also have a useful analogue to autistic masking.

Interestingly, the BBC article never mentions autism, but the National Geographic one does, although I’m suspect of its claims that “the sudden shift to video calls has been a boon for people who have neurological difficulty with in-person exchanges, such as those with autism”, as my particular autistic spectrum, at least, includes social and performance distress which quite easily would carry over from in-person exchanges to video meetings. I question Sparrow’s suggestion of an autistic “home-court advantage” for the same reason.

What might help is something touched upon in that same article, as observed by one of the autistic people with whom the article spoke, who notes that “video calls lead to fewer people talking and less filler conversation at the beginning and end of each meeting”. A reduction in small-talk certainly would lessen some of the stress on my brain, but I’m still not convinced it would outweigh the performance distress of being live on camera.

(Parenthetically, and only because this occurs to me as I write this, there’s a difference and distinction, for me anyway, between small talk meant purely as social signifier and small talk where there’s an actual expectation of interest or explication. The trouble comes from trying to recognize which is which.)

Setting aside, then, the suggestions that autistics somehow might have an advantage in video meetings, I’d love to see autistic or autistic-ally researchers examine these parallels, as we certainly could do with more ways for neurotypicals to reach an “a-ha!” moment.

This post originally was published 2 years ago by Bix Frankonis on Posts older than a decade might not reflect my current views.