Pop Art, Zoom And Our Need For Simplicity Right Now

Who’s feeling fatigued, ‘zoomed out’? If the amount of articles and social media posts I’ve seen on this topic is anything to go by, I’d say that the answer to this question is, most of us.

We’re exhausted because of all the extra cognitive processing (which is a fancy term for having to consciously do lots of extra thinking) to fill in the missing 50% of the conversation that we’d normally get from non-verbal and olfactory cues (smell.) It’s the accumulation of all these missing signals that are causing mental fatigue.

Viewing a collection of faces and torsos on your monitor is like watching multiple movies at the same time. It’s too much for the human brain to handle.

I read in one recent article that we should give ourselves a break and not be too concerned about how we’re appearing virtually. I respectfully disagree. Of course, on a human level we may well be more forgiving in times like these, and reserving the usual judgment – these are, after all, our colleagues and friends, and many people are struggling to adjust. But the distraction and overload that come from, for example, cluttered backgrounds and personal memorabilia, still have the same negative impact on our ability to cognitively process the gaps in communication.

I long for simplicity.

I cannot absorb all the dizzying array of colours and patterns, the busy and creative backgrounds, or the wall art (one of which was Andy Warhol’s famous piece of Elvis pointing a gun, at me!). Now, don’t get me wrong, I adore Elvis! I quite like pop art, too. We have a 200 x 200 cm abstract canvas of Prince on our wall at home, but my husband and I know it will take centre stage during our virtual meetings and so we remove it when we need to.

It’s all incredibly distracting. Please give me a plain wall, perhaps a plant, simple clothes in one colour, and limited (if any) accessories.

Let us simplify everything we do and say in our virtual world.

We have to; remote working is here to stay. A quick internet search revealed study after study, opinion after opinion claiming that the future of jobs after the pandemic is “a blurry mix of work, life, pyjamas, and Zoom!” Certainly, the ANZ Bank and others expect only about 40 per cent of staff will be in the office at a given time – a model that may last until a vaccine or other form of protection has been found, says the Australian Financial Review.

For me, and my advice to any professional who takes their image and personal brand seriously is to be careful, and think deeply, about how you express yourself in the virtual world. Is that meeting really the time to make bold personal statements about who you are and what you love?

Avoid INFOBESITY – the excess of information swirling around. It inhibits our attention span and ability to focus on important information.

Pare back. Keep it simple. Our brain loves simplicity.

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Written By Michaela Betchley

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