Our new-normal, write Georgina Buckle and Maria Pointer, amounts to hellish adventures through the catacombs of Zoom. Dante could never.

Georgina Buckle & Maria Pointer

This 'new normal' is hellish, to say the least. Dante could never.Gail Lewis

Ah, hello there fellow Zoomer. We’ve been expecting you. A very warm welcome to Zoom Hell. The prospect of “going Zooming” might seem like a threatening one. But, fear not, we’re here to give you an all-purpose tour through our Zoom-nightmares, with some Top Tips for navigating this hellish ‘new normal’. 

1: 'Devilish Good Looks': Dressing Up For Zoom

Our first circle begins with that wretched question: what to wear? To answer this, it requires some honest acceptance of character. Are you, like many of us, the type to lie in bed, middle finger up to the outside world, only to scramble out of bed at the last moment? If this is you the answer would be: for the love of Zoom hell wear something! Anything at least!

For the early-bird - the person who has every colour of Stabilo Boss highlighter - the world is your oyster. Perhaps you find that you’re partial to getting dressed-up in lockdown. There’s a shiver of excitement from donning that May ball gown/suit you never got to wear. Even if it makes it that bit more tantalisingly difficult to avoid looking at yourself on screen (more on this in the 5th circle). 

TOP TIP: Business in the top, party in the bottom. Below what’s visible on-screen you could wear whatever you want…

2: Location, Location, Location:

Choosing a location for your call is more than just a simple choice - it’s choosing your identity… Okay not quite, but it’s an article on zoom-hell so clearly we love the drama. Your choice of backdrop asserts more about you than anything you contribute during the call. Is your bed too casual? Is the desk too formal? Is the garden too whimsical? Are you the person to oh-so-accidentally end up sitting slap bang in front of your extensive bookshelf? Onlookers will be intimidated, trying to think if you’ve really read all those books, questioning whether it’s not just a fake Zoom background. It’s a bold move. That is, until they realise the only books on your shelves are the Twilight saga. Different location it is. 

TOP TIP: To show integrity, leave your childhood posters up in the background. Nothing is more sensational than asserting yourself as Team Jacob loud and proud.

3: To 'Ear' is Human: Choosing Headphones 

Now that you’ve got your signature style locked down (note the ~topical~ pun) it’s time for your next circle-decision: headphones. Do you go for the classic came-with-your-phone earphones? Maybe you use a headset because you’re just. that. kooky. You could be the kind of person who’ll flex your bluetooth headphones or even worse...airpods? Or do you go in for the strongest of all the power moves: asserting your dominance over the call by going absolutely headphoneless - flaunting your academic rigour to the rest of your household? 

Just a day in the life..Gail Lewis

TOP TIP: Please mute yourself when you’re not talking. This is a PSA to all Zoom-users. If you don’t, you’ll quickly become an ASMR live stream and not all of us are enthusiasts. 

4: Here's Looking at You, Kid

As you’re joining the call, you face the good old mind-gymnastics of thinking about where on earth you’re meant to look. Your mind wanders as you ponder this conundrum: will you look at the host? The other members of the call? You ask yourself if looking out the window will be too Jane Eyre-wannabe? God forbid you attempt the ‘looking-at-no-one-in-particular’ approach, your eyes glazing over. 5 minutes later you wrench them back into focus, only to find that you’re looking directly at yourself. I’ve looked like that ... the whole time? Do you think people can tell I just looked at myself?

TOP TIP: Whatever you do, NEVER look straight down the camera. You will terrify your fellow callers with your soul-scraping stare.


So here we are, my hell-bound readers; teetering on the precipice of the inner circles - pulse racing, heat building, devil horns incoming. Decision time is over and it’s time to buckle up as you plunge deeper into the depths of the nail-biting, cringe-inducing experiences of Zoom’s Inferno.

5: 'You had me at that awkward "Hello"'


Mountain View

Lockdown Poetry: Flattening the Curve

So, what better way to start your session, be it supervision, class or even virtual pub night, than with a nice round of everyone’s favourite awkward introductory chat. We’d all rather just get straight down to business - move directly onto the classwork or indeed, to winning the coveted title of Quiz Champion. But alas, society dictates we must engage in a chorus of ‘How’s it going?’ followed by a painfully forced laugh and the inevitable ‘It’s … going!’. Oh, how we chuckle.

TOP TIP: Busy yourself with ‘plugging in your out-of-charge laptop’ - keeps you active in those moments of heavy pausing. 

6: Frozen 3: Elsa's Terrible Wifi

Whether it’s to get some sort of degree, or just for a bar night with your mates after a long day of… being inside, we really do need Zoom right now. And if there’s something we need just as bad, it’s for the dang WiFi to work. Maybe your WiFi is being hogged by a large household of people, or maybe it’s just a temperamental little weasel. Nothing makes you want to scream into a pillow more than those five little words appearing: your internet connection is unstable. Well, well, well, internet connection - you’re not the only one now. 

TOP TIP: Make a statement: leave the call and ~dramatically~ re-enter in a new location (sitting on the wifi box).

7: Frozen 4: Literally Frozen, Wtf Elsa?

And yet, the truest form of awkwardness is yet to come! It’s those heart-stopping, smile-dropping, conversation-flopping (doesn’t quite work but we’ll power through - we needed a third) moment when the chatter dies down and everyone stares at their screens. The deafening silence booming before someone pipes up to blurt out ‘Think I lost you guys for a minute there!’, only to be met with ‘Nope, no one said anything.’ Hot damn. Fooled again. 

TOP TIP: Embrace the silence. Stare your fellows down. Wait for someone else to take the heat and pretend it didn’t happen when events unfurl. 

8: The Power of the Mute Button

Oh dear reader, it’s not over yet. With the perpetual, flaming awkwardness that Zoom delivers to us, we have the 8th circle: disrupted. social. cues. Without the physical presence of one another, our body language and eye contact is rendered useless. Excruciatingly long pauses are broken by the characteristic ‘no, you go!’ ‘no please, you’. This sudden flustered burst of simultaneous talking continues, whilst everyone else in the call looks on blankly - wishing for an end to the overly polite, infinite ping-pong match. 

TOP TIP: Bypass the issue entirely by never talking. Instead just ‘hmm’, ‘ah’ and nod profusely. No one will question your contribution to the call. 

THE FINAL CIRCLE: The End...unless?

Think you’ve escaped? I’m afraid you’ve merely reached … the ninth circle. How, in Zoom-hell, do we go about ending this call? There’s the stealth-leavers: they drop off the call along the way, claiming bad WiFi but escaping safely while they can. There’s the ‘Right!’ - ers but their tactic to change the tone to one of goodbyes is stomped over by that one person who just doesn’t get the message. But then there are the chosen ones: brave enough to simply adopt a breezy ‘See you later’ and leave. To those chosen few, we salute you. Without you, we’d be trapped in the circles for eternity.

TOP TIP: Be that person.