“You’re on mute … di*khead” Why online meetings are rubbish

Joe Wilson talks social interaction, Zoom meetings and dreaming of Barbados 

Let me take you back in time. It’s 2020. You’re in bed, you have your Grumpy the Dwarf pjs on (no? Just me then), you’re in an online ‘A’ Level Geography lesson, you don’t have a fucking clue what is going on and you’re checking out ‘Selling Sunset’ on your second screen. That’s right, it was the best time to be alive. Obviously COVID was awful, but if you are looking for silver linings, those Zoom-based classes were a big gleaming one. 

But then it went too far. Today, in 2024, nobody is capable of leaving their house to have a conversation. Everything is a Google Meets link, Zoom or a Teams call. I’ve even recently been invited to a Skype call, which took me straight back to the 2015 Houseparty days before you could say ‘touch grass’. In all seriousness, I do believe that this new reliance on online meetings has taken something special out of modern day work-based communication and relationships. You can’t have a ‘watercooler moment’ when the watercooler is the Google pre meeting waiting room. 

Going to work is cr*p, unless you are one of the lucky few who has found their way into a job you love. If you are….well played…fu*k you. But if you’re like me, going into work is the storm cloud on the horizon when you’ve just put the sausages on the bbq.  But at least, way back in the early 20s, there were people, friends to go for a drink with, gossip with (and about), people to hate, love, forget the names of and get off with at the work Christmas party. Remote working and online meetings are the funsponges of the corporate world, absorbing everything that makes work bearable and squeezing it out into Bill Gates’ sink. We’re living in an episode of Black Mirror. The only ‘networking’ we get to do is with the Uber Eats delivery guy (he’s actually an actor).

It isn’t just work itself that has been ruined by online meetings. How are we supposed to get a job in the first place? Our age demographic is expected to be forging a path into the jobosphere, donning our finest M&S suit and regurgitating ChatGPT-generated answers to slightly bored middle management, in a desperate attempt to move out of the parental home. Instead, we are donning the top half of the M&S suit (Grumpy the Dwarf pjs down below), and talking to our own face cam. All the human connection of a job interview has gone. My complaint is not even necessarily about how effective online interviews are, but that they rob us of learning the skills of making an interviewer like us. 

There is one massive benefit of online meetings. A factor that almost makes it worth it. The one redeeming feature of an otherwise bleak hellscape of buffering, tech problems and ‘you’re on mute’ accompanied by a muttered ‘di*khead’. I can’t be the only one who enjoys an hour choosing the right virtual background. You’ll usually find me in Barbados.

Remote working and online meetings are not going away. They’re going to be part of our working lives until someone notices that glitch in the looped tape of us at our desks, in Barbados, nodding along, for all eternity. Surely this trend won’t last forever? Nothing does.

I know…how about we dig out the bottom halves of our M&S suits, form a management consultancy and sell the idea of ‘working in the office’ to the next generation of bosses? We’ll make a fortune. 

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