Two years into a pandemic resurging with the Ormicron variant, everyone still struggles with how to work and go to school. Enter ZOOM (and other online platforms), which became the standard for students and businesses.

A new research study from Washington State University provides some insights into the positives and negatives of online meetings and classes.

It is well documented that younger students have struggled with this new environment. Children need the social interaction with other classmates to develop needed social, behavioral, and learning experiences. Remember whispering to a friend what answer they got to an equation?

Like it or not, the pandemic has altered and entire generation’s mindset, young and old. Mask or not? Vaccines or not? So, what about the remote experience?

“Most people believe that seeing yourself during virtual meetings contributes to making the overall experience worse, but that’s not what showed up in my data,” said Kristine Kuhn, associate professor in WSU’s Carson College of Business and author of the study published in Computers in Human Behavior. “It depended on the individual.”

In the summer and fall of 2020, near the start of the pandemic, Kuhn surveyed two sets of people: more than eighty employees from different parts of the U.S. who had been shifted to remote work and about 350 business college students whose classes had been moved online. All the participants answered a variety of questions about the nature of their work or class meetings and their feelings toward them. They also completed an assessment of their public self-consciousness.

For both groups, the study revealed there was not a simple correlation between how often people saw their own faces during their virtual meetings and their overall attitude toward them. Rather, for highly self-conscious people, more frequent self-view was associated with worse attitudes, and the opposite was true for those low in self-consciousness.

Do you care if you are sitting in a home office or at the kitchen table? In a suit or a sweatshirt? We have all heard the joke of the TV anchor in his suit and tie with swimming trunks that cannot be seen on camera. It is what you have to say and contribute to the conversation that matters most.

“It’s just not really a one size fits all,” Kuhn said. “A manager running a team meeting would probably prefer everybody to have their camera on. At the same time, you should recognize that there is a cost to that, so understanding that just because it is what you prefer, it isn’t necessarily ideal for everybody.”

For some, the ability to mute their microphone or hide their camera view is a real positive. Some prefer to sit in an office, while others are much more productive without the pressure. With tech and the pandemic, new areas of study are opening and much more research is necessary to determine the best outcomes for each individual and how their contributions impact the new reality.

Marcee Maylin has a degree in Editorial Journalism from the University of Washington and 30+ years media experience. She is currently the Editor of the Everett Post dedicated to providing current, relevant, and entertaining content for the local community.