Dear Annie: Throughout the pandemic, I’ve noted some things that make for a successful Zoom or FaceTime call. Perhaps these suggestions will be of use to your readers.
- Look at yourself on your screen. What you see is what others will see.
- Do not sit with a window or other bright light behind you. You will be a dark silhouette.
- Have the light or window facing you from higher, beyond the laptop, or up to 45 degrees off to the side.
- Incandescent lights are warmer and make you look more alive. Natural window light alone, particularly if snow is on the ground, can make you look ghostly pale blue.
- Place your laptop on a table to keep it from moving around to dizzy others. TV tray tables work.
- Sit close enough so your head nearly fills the screen and you are recognizable.
- Adjust the screen/camera angle to include your full face, preferably from nearly the same level to eliminate facial distortions and dominant ceilings. Sitting on extra cushions can sometimes help.
- If there are two of you making the call together from one device, sit close enough so both faces show equally.
- Check your background for distracting clutter. — Harvey V.
Dear Harvey: Video conferencing has been so important during this past year, and I hope people will continue to make use of the technology even after the pandemic ends. Thanks for the tips on Zooming like a pro. (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com
Good grief. This is what Annie Lane said:
Thanks for the tips on Zooming like a pro.
And here’s the helpful translation:
Thanks for writing half my column for me!
I mean, this is a waste of column space. I’ve never zoomed(?) because I’m not good at tech, but even I would figure out all these tips on my own after doing it once or twice. Like, tip #1. Look at yourself on the screen. What you see is what others will see. No, really? I never would’ve guessed as much! Are you kidding me?
At least number seven was entertaining. It’s also good advice for a virgin:
7. Adjust the screen/camera angle to include your full face, preferably from nearly the same level to eliminate facial distortions and dominant ceilings. Sitting on extra cushions can sometimes help.
Facial distortions, dominant ceilings, extra cushions? Can the floors be submissive? Oh my gosh. Let’s get kinky with it! 😀
Dear Annie: We have two grown sons, whom I will call “Tim” and “Tom.” One is our biological son and the other is adopted. They are a few years apart and live just a few miles apart. When they were growing up, they were somewhat close, but they have been estranged for a number of years. There was never really a falling out or major disagreement between them or anything like that. Tim has expressed that he’s worried that Tom will take advantage of him in looking for job connections. Tom says he doesn’t want to make the first move because he says he always has to make the first move in communicating. So nothing happens. They have never communicated the reasons to each other. It was very awkward on Christmas when we did a FaceTime call together.
I’m very hurt because of this. My one desire is for them to be close. This bothers me a lot. Do I just let things go on as they are, or should I make some effort to get them together? — Mom with a Last Wish
Dear Last Wish: I feel for you. Every parent wishes for their children to have special lifelong bonds with their siblings. But your sons are adult men with their own lives and beliefs. You can’t force them to be closer. And trying to do so will only drive them further from you. Continue to create spaces to gather as a family, even if it’s just virtual for now, and even if it’s awkward. Hopefully, in time, that ice will thaw a bit. In the meantime, focus on your relationships with each of them individually.
So then, after the tips for good zooming, Annie Lane tackles another easy pitch. Help! My kids aren’t best friends! Oh no!
It was very awkward on Christmas when we did a FaceTime call together.
Oh, cry me a river. If your holiday is awkward, then that probably means that no one was killed, maimed, rendered unconscious due to intoxication, or arrested. That’s good, right? Are we aiming for It’s a Wonderful Life?
Continue to create spaces to gather as a family, even if it’s just virtual for now, and even if it’s awkward. Hopefully, in time, that ice will thaw a bit.
Yeah, I totally see that happening. (Not.) I’d avoid the awkwardness altogether. Should anyone be forced to interact that way on a regular basis? Is Annie Lane serious? Awkwardness is painful. There’s no reason to perpetuate it. It’s best avoided. For Christmas, it’s one thing. (Although I refuse to associate with my evil sister even then!) But all the time? AAUGH! I’m exhausted just from reading about Tim and Tom. I can’t imagine having to go through the awkwardness of being with them regularly, virtual or not.
Mom: “So, Tim. Your brother, Tom, got a haircut.”
[Tim and Tom shift nervously and glance away from each other.]
Mom: “Tom, did you write Tim a thank-you note for the shaving cream?”
Tim: “Mom made me get that for you, bro.”
Tom: “Yeah, thanks, bro, whatever.” [Clears throat and scratches the back of his neck.]
Mom [speaking to Tim]: “Hey! We don’t need to share that. Just look at how clean-shaven Tim is.”
Tom: “Mom, I’m Tom. He’s Tim.”
Mom [glances at both men in confusion]: “Really? Are you sure?”
But I think what Annie Lane’s doing there is creating false hope under the assumption that hey, it can’t hurt to try. I think that’s a bit misguided, because this letter writer needs to just let it go. She should wholly focus on how Tim and Tom are successful. I mean, if she can’t deal with this, how would she cope if Tim and Tom were to start growing crystal meth while on the run for negligent arson and bank robberies? (I have no idea why I made the arson negligent, but it humors me. The bank robberies were on purpose!) If I were writing the advice column, I’d give the letter writer a reality check instead of false hope. I don’t think I’d be mean about it. That’s not necessary. Just matter-of-fact.
The letter rubs me the wrong way. It reminds me of my mother and my nextdoor neighbor, Stevil. Weird, I know. My mom’s always trying to force me to get along with my evil sister, and my nextdoor neighbor, Stevil, is passive-aggressive like Tim and Tom. (I’m not sure what I’m basing this on, but when I read about Tim and Tom, I got a clear image of Stevil in my mind.)
By the way, Tim and Tom? What is this, The Adventures of Pete and Pete? That was a great television show. Didn’t the Pete brothers’ mom have a plate in her head? (You’d have to, to name both your sons Pete.)
I don’t have kids, and therefore I can’t intuitively understand the bizarre desire for them to be super-close (as adults). Some siblings are super-close, but you can’t bank on it. It’s hardly guaranteed.
I’m very hurt because of this. My one desire is for them to be close. This bothers me a lot.
Okay. Hmm… maybe the letter writer has a lack of gratitude, like I was talking about?
So, to summarize, the letter writer has nothing to be upset about, and Annie Lane gave somewhat lame advice to an easy question.
I’m gonna go find myself some extra cushions now and get wild!! Woo hoo! Party in Meg’s bedroom!