So, What is Zoom Etiquette?


Ashna Satpathy, Staff Writer

When the distant idea of online learning was first articulated in the beginning of March, many students cringed at the idea of essentially inviting fellow classmates and teachers into our homes. Whether it be showing everyone a wall in your house, a desk, or even a full view of one cuddled up in their bed, it no doubt feels awfully personal and quite literally, too close to home.

These feelings were certainly exaggerated by the viral video of a woman on a Zoom conference call who forgot her camera was on and gave her colleagues a full view of her in the bathroom. As many of us sat there watching, mortified, it definitely revealed the sudden intimate nature of this whole ordeal. 

So, what are the unwritten rules of how to behave on Zoom? The TikToks of people doing amusing things during their Zoom classes are endless, and certainly exacerbate the need to navigate this new way of learning. The majority of us have either been in a Zoom class with someone in bed, been in bed ourselves, or have been in various other settings with the camera off.

For instance, Latin alum Grant Kovel ‘18 has seen quite a bit during his time in online school at Emory University. From watching a classmate in a bathtub getting his hair washed by his mom to another kid working out with a family member—yes, all in Zoom classes—Grant has come to the realization that “the standards are lower when the class goes pass/fail.”

With regards to how to deal with this foreign territory, junior Bella Campise, who frequently attends her Zoom classes from her bed, says, “I don’t think there should be any rules on this because I think that online learning is already hard on the students and adding more rules will just make us resent the whole experience more, making it less effective.” To that point, she adds, “If I have to do school work from my house alone for 7 hours I prefer to do it from the comfort of my bed.” Bella also brings up a point about how enforcing rules on where students should do their work from can be difficult: “If there were to be rules, like students need to work at a desk, some students do not have space in their house to do that, as the school really has no idea what student’s home life is like.” Bella finishes by adding that “I have never been distracted by other people on Zoom any more than I am distracted during [in person] class.”

Similar to Bella, junior Rachel Schofield says, “I haven’t really found a case where anyone has really abused their Zoom privileges,” adding that “everyone is in pajamas, but you could still show up to school in sweatpants anyway and it wouldn’t be any different.” She found that it wasn’t the clothes, or the choice between the bed and the desk, that distracted her, but rather, “the one thing that I was conscious of the first day of Zoom [classes] was what my background looked like.” She expressed what many also feel, “there’s something really personal about having your whole class see the inside of your room that’s just kind of a weird feeling.”

Another question has to do with eating during class. Previously, teachers had differing sentiments on whether students could eat during class. Nuts were, of course, also off limits. But now, with no one to smell your food and, with the mute feature, no one to hear you chewing, is that rule still important? Math and finance teacher, Mr. Mahoney, who previously had a no eating rule in class, now allows it over Zoom. He explained that “the problem with eating in class is that it feels unsafe for folks who have allergies, and it’s distracting.” Now, the allergy rule is obsolete. 

English teacher Ms. Barker says, “It gives me pause when students come to class in bed.” But, like Bella, she also expressed that it’s not as simple as it seems. “For some students, it’s the only place in their rooms where they can sit. But, there’s also a distinction between laying in bed versus sitting up.” The ultimate issue, she points out, is “when I have morning classes and students are either rolling out of bed or just coming to class while still in bed, for me there’s an issue in taking the learning seriously.” She also pointed out another nuance in Zoom etiquette expectations, “speaking on my own Zoom etiquette, my dog has been sitting on my lap or popping in.” 

With only a couple weeks of the school year left, perhaps we will never get a set of instructions on how to act during Zoom. It certainly was an interesting experience to get acquainted with, and come fall, if we are still finding ourselves waking up at 8:10 for an 8:30 Zoom class, so be it. Maybe then the rules will be more clear cut. But until then, class from the garden, the floor, kitchen counter, the desk, and yes, even the bed, will have to do.