top of page
  • Writer's pictureHelena Merk

Zoom calls are awkward, but you can fix it!

There’s 16 of us on a zoom birthday call, all of us love the birthday girl to death, yet nobody talks. We’re celebrating her 21st over video 👯‍♂️. We don’t all know each other, and even banter is just plain awkward 🌮. The worry about interrupting others results in nobody talking. Exhausting!

awkward images
group video chats are awkward

When done incorrectly, group calls are so exhausting the feeling has created a phrase coined: “Zoom Fatigue.”

If the dreaded fatigue has not hit yet, check out my 4 tips below. If it has, maybe these will reverse the effects! My favorite tip is #3, where you’ll learn how to bring snapchat filters into your Zoom meetings!

4 Tips to Address Awkwardness

1. Turn off mirroring

The WJS recently published an article diving into some of the science of “Zoom Fatigue.” “When you look in a mirror, what you tend to see is your objective self,” says Amy Gonzales, assistant professor at UC Santa Barbara who studies media and identity. “I guess my nose is kind of big. Maybe I do need some wrinkle cream.” Mirroring results in Zoom fatigue as well as awkwardness as being conscious makes us behave in different ways. Imagine having mirrors everywhere in the real world. Turning off mirroring will help! Here is a “How To” support article by Zoom. Do the same in Google Hangouts, Facebook Rooms, etc.

2. Breakout (of zoom)

Large groups are scary! This is why we take +1s to events, tag-team conferences, etc. When you “breakout” for discussions, don’t stick to Zoom’s rooms — get creative. Take a few minutes for casual banter. Glimpse is perfect for this: match with others 1-on-1 for 2 minute video chats. Here’s a proposed agenda:

1. Hop onto Zoom for organizer makes announcements.

2. Send a Glimpse link, chat 1-on-1, break ice

3. Return to Zoom and finally feel comfortable.

Other great options:

- Watercooler (Clubhouse for the workplace) enables this all the time.

- Tandem makes your office virtual.

(Alternatively… if you can get an invite, Clubhouse is an option too.)

3. Get creative with filters!

A lot of the exhaustion comes from people’s eyes darting around, constant focus on our appearance, etc. Videochat is amazing for reading body language reading sensing nuances — filters allow us to do this and feel confident. Why isn’t everyone doing this already? It takes 2 steps.

1. Download Snap Camera

2. Set your Zoom Camera to use snap camera

3. Surprise your friends with the Snapchat dog filter, a laughing potato, or a taco crown. You’ll be the coolest kid in the Zoom 🐶🚀.

If you get really into it, you can submit your own filters! → P.S. Guess what’s coming soon for Glimpse 🤫

4. Back to Basics: Phone Calls

Make excuses to take phone calls instead of video — and yes, I’m saying this as a founder of a video chat app. Many of my longer conversations can just be audio based. This is a great excuse to get outside (with a mask), walk, and get some fresh air.

💡Final bonus tip: If all else fails, acknowledging awkwardness goes a long way. This works in the real world as well.

Let me know what works for you!


We went from not knowing what Zoom was, to using Zoom for everything from birthday parties to webinars. Quick transitions tend to be exhausting!

On large group video calls, the effect is similar to everyone sitting in a large circle in kindergarten. Those groups would often involve passing a talking stick. What’s the video chat equivalent of a speaking stick?

Thank you to Priya Parker and her book, The Art of Gathering, that’s influenced a lot of my thinking in group dynamics, interpersonal exchanges, etc.

Her book dives deep into why we gather. Those lessons apply to Zoom meetings too! It should be clear who is leading the event, and they should work to make people feel comfortable.

bottom of page