Monday afternoon’s virtual meeting of ECON 120 marked another day of blissful ignorance for professor Brian McDonald, who remarked loudly and repeatedly at the start of class that “this Zoom format makes it so hard for us to hang out at the beginning of class like we usually would.” McDonald’s comment was met with one friendly nod, nine blank stares, and one student choosing to turn off their video altogether.
McDonald began class on Monday by casually inviting students to unmute themselves, a tactic he claims can help them get over “the awkwardness of Zoom,” which he sees as the primary impediment to pre-class banter.
“You guys can feel free to go ahead and unmute yourselves,” McDonald told his students in between noisy bites of a sandwich. “I’m happy to talk a little before we dive into the material, so you can definitely unmute yourselves. I really miss the routine of people filing into the classroom, but for now at the very least you can unmute yourselves. We can just chat a little bit about the weekend. Did anyone do anything fun? I didn’t. Oh, if the reason you’re not answering is that you’re muted, you can go ahead and unmute yourselves. Nothing fun this weekend? Oh, wait, I did take my son to the sawdust museum. Anyone else? You can unmute yourselves. Wow, it’s so hard doing this on Zoom. Please unmute yourselves. Cody, turn your fucking mute off.”
Professor McDonald’s class, which is taught in a hybrid format but has been attended entirely via Zoom since its second meeting, has gotten solid reviews from students. “I really appreciate how clear the lectures are,” said Olivia James ‘23, when asked whether she liked Professor McDonald as a person.
“I certainly don’t know him well enough to really judge whether I like him or dislike him,” said Jared Waterson ‘22, who was asked what he would do if McDonald was stranded on the edge of a cliff and surrounded by a pack of Coyotes, but could be saved if Waterson was willing to press a button from the comfort of his own bedroom.
McDonald claims the difficulty of interacting on Zoom has caused problems in almost every part of his life this year. “Even faculty meetings are so much more difficult now than they used to be,” he said. “The other day one of my colleagues told me to ‘shut the fuck up because your ideas are terrible and I have always hated you as a person,’ and I was just so bummed out, because that’s the type of problem that Zoom just has a way of creating.”
The difficulty of interacting through the internet has even affected McDonald’s relationships with his own children, who live in the same house as him, but choose not to speak to or look at him. He believes this behavior is a result of “Zoom fatigue spilling over into regular life.”