Have digital fatigue? Some ways to cope in this month’s issue of “Tell Your Story Newsletter”

October 2021 Vol 3 Issue 10

Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):

Specializing in Entrepreneurial and Organizational Storytelling

Let me tell your story!

Welcome Mid-October 2021!

Readers who are based in Canada have recently passed the Thanksgiving holiday (October 11th). After enjoying sunshine and warmer than usual temperatures from September through ‘til Thanksgiving Day, we were shocked by snow and a few, unseasonably cold days.

But then, last weekend, temperatures of 20+ degrees Celsius returned. Such fluctuations confirm (if we needed it) that we cannot easily outpace the Covid pandemic or climate change, as global crises for our times. That knowledge, and a steady diet of related loss and conflict in our news, could bring any feeling person low.

While many Saskatchewanians dread the coming of winter, I feel prepared to embrace it. Some good comes from the cold: as a friend texted me, recently, “there is a hush that descends on the landscape when winter arrives.”

And it bears repeating that during even the severe cold of prairie winters, clouds part to stream brilliant sunshine to us! That light makes the cold more bearable. Furthermore, environmentalists emphasize the importance of winter to kill off pestilence and disease, such as pernicious species of fungi and pine beetles.

Despite the trying circumstances of these late pandemic days, I wish for you, good reader, that this late autumn will be a time to take hope in your professional accomplishments and take heart in your relationships with close family and friends.

And in this month of Thanksgiving, may each of us find gratitude for the blessings that we sometimes fail to notice but that continue to grace our lives.




Storytelling Communications




ARTICLE 1: Have digital fatigue? Here’s how to cope


Should you end a story with a preposition (with Mignon Fogarty)




Article One: Have digital fatigue? Here’s how to cope

The American organizational psychologist Adam Grant reminded readers in his October newsletter that fatigue with digital video-call platforms, like Zoom, continues to exhaust regular users. A lack of productivity and depression are two outcomes shared anecdotally by my entrepreneurial colleagues.

Grant promoted an article by Dr. Vignash Ramachandran (Stanford University) that cited four “consequences of prolonged video chats” on platforms like Zoom. Ramachandran drew on reports from the university’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, directed by Professor Jeremy Bailenson.

In pandemic times, Ramachandran estimates that “hundreds of millions of videoconferencing calls happen daily,” as Covid health protocols keep people apart. Bailenson and his team found four outcomes of repeated video calls that contribute to “Zoom fatigue.” Do these resonate with you?

(1) Too much “close-up eye contact is highly intense.”

Ramachandran says that the amount of eye contact we use when on video calls and the large size of our facial images that we view on screens are both unnatural.

When people meet, in-person, he writes, we may look at the speaker, but also take notes, look elsewhere, move in our chairs or around the room. Even if we do not speak in the meeting, we’ll find many more people and distractions to look at, beyond the speaker.

By contrast, in Zoom, eye contract with the speaker is “dramatically increased,” even exponentially so. As a speaker to receive that much scrutiny is inherently stressful.

Bailenson also observes that depending on monitor size, faces on videoconferencing calls can appear intimidating, even leading to conflict. Or, alternatively, our closeness to others’ over-sized facial images approximates mating, as though “you’re with somebody intimately.”  Zoom can leave us in a “hyper-aroused” state that we hardly want connected to professional meetings!

Ramachandran recommends reducing the size of the Zoom window on our screen, to minimize face size and to create a personal space between ourselves and the platform (e.g. by using an external keyboard).

(2) Seeing ourselves so persistently during video chats in real-time is exhausting.

Most videoconferencing platforms show these large images of ourselves, during a chat, so that we also have the unnatural experience of seeing ourselves when we’re talking to people, making decisions, getting and giving feedback.

 Ramanchandran reports that “when we see reflections of ourselves, we only become more critical of ourselves.” There are negative emotional consequences of seeing ourselves in a mirror! Consider how much easier it is, for instance, to floss one’s teeth before going to bed, nightly, if one does not do it in front of a mirror. . 


Ramachandran recommends that users should use the “hide self-view” button (right click on your photo) in Zoom, once we have found our faces properly framed in the video. He also advocates for changes to the software, so that beaming the video to both ourselves (as default), and not only to others, should be changed.


(3) Video chats also reduce our physical mobility.

When we meet in-person or by phone, we have the freedom to move and walk around. But with videoconferencing, we have to stay in the same spot, which is problematic, because, as Bailenson observes, “when people are moving, they’re performing better cognitively.” Participants should be allowed to pace and doodle, uncensored. Also, turning off the video camera occasionally and working with audio only can give us a rest.


By choosing a large room for the call and positioning the camera not to focus so intensively on our faces, we can create more distance and allow for more user comfort. 


(4) The “cognitive load” (memory resources) participants endure is much higher in video chats.

During in-person meetings, Bailenson says that we communicate non-verbally and “make and interpret gestures and non-verbal cues subconsciously.” But we can’t do that in videoconferencing, where we have to worry about whether our heads are in the centres of the video and where we must use exaggerated gestures (nodding, thumbs up) to agree with others.


These demands all add to our “cognitive load,” which means our mental resources of memory and thinking. Much effort is required to communicate with each other. 


Gestures also can mean different things in video meetings than they do in-person. For instance, as our looking aside to others in Zoom call may seem to signal lost attention. Yet we know from experience that it may result from nothing more relevant or important than an unexpected entrance of a pet or family member into the room.


Here, too, Bailenson recommends using “audio-only” participation, especially if we attend long stretches of such meetings.Setting visual images aside frees us from having to manufacture non-verbal gestures and enables us to move and turn our bodies away from the screen.


While we address the above four effects of videoconferencing, Balachandran says we can also be on the lookout for the “Zoom Exhaustion and Fatigue Scale” (ZEF Scale). This measures workplace fatigue from videoconferencing in terms of exhaustion, eye irritation, users avoiding social situations after calls end and users’ feelings of being emotionally drained and of being too tired to undertake other activities. 


Ramachandran says that research has begun to uncover the roots of “Zoom fatigue” and so to make healthy changes in online meeting practices. There is much work left to address and engage psychologists’ findings.


Acknowledging and reporting these changes can make videoconferencing platforms less exhausting and “change some of the paradigm” on which our meetings are built.


And now it’s your turn: Have you found using Zoom or other videoconferencing software to deplete your mental and emotional resources? Please write in; I’d be delighted to hear your feedback!



STORYTELLER’S CORNER: Words, stories, riddles and more on writing and editing . . .

Should you end a sentence with a preposition, asks  “Grammar Girl,” Mignon Fogarty?

Just as many of us were taught in grade two not to start a sentence with “and” or “but” (practices long ago overturned as pedantic), some writers and readers still believe that we should not end sentences with prepositions.

Mignon Fogarty, the American writing coach who brands herself as “Grammar Girl,” has blogged on this very point.

To review (for non-grammarians): a “preposition” is a word that creates a relationship between other words, usually dealing with space (e.g.“above,” “by,” and “over”); and time (e.g.“before” and “after”).

Here are two examples of these, respectively: “The nightstand is by the bed,” and “We had dessert after dinner.”

So long as the preposition is grammatically needed (unlike in the phrase:“The diver jumped off of the deep end”), it can legitimately fall at the end of a sentence. So it’s acceptable, as Fogarty says, to write “What did you step on?” instead of “On what did you step?” (Note how the latter sounds stuffy and pedantic.)

Fogarty says that prepositions often fall at the end of sentences in which phrasal verbs are used—verbs that are made of multiple words used to convey action. These verbs often include a preposition. For example, “I wish she would leave it off.” Or “You should cheer up.”

Other sentences without phrasal verbs can also end with prepositions and still be valid: “I want to know where he came from” is much more readable than “I want to know from where he came.” Fogarty says that one exception would be when writing conservative documents like cover letters (i.e. job applications), when it would be safer to avoid ending sentences with prepositions.

However, in virtually all other cases, ending sentences with prepositions will make them easier (and therefore, faster) to read.  

Consider as a guide the statement uttered by Sir Winston Churchill, who famously resisted this rule against preposition use, saying: “This is the sort of pedantry up with which I will not put!”

Do you have an idea, riddle or joke on any aspect of writing or communications? Please share it with me; I’d be delighted to use it in an upcoming issue. 



Thank you this month to  departing Executive Director Heath Graham and to ongoing Sales Manager Monique Duperreault at The Franklin Retirement Residence, for continuing to support seniors of all ages and abilities, in their later years.  Suites are available–please consider for the elderly in your lives.


Special thanks to the very gifted ESL teacher, philosopher, classicist and generous human being, Steve Cavan, who has advised me as I take my ESL teaching even further online.


My friends Cuyler and Joni Onclin have made me grateful for generously collaborating with me on car and transportation related issues, sharing  stories and laughter along the way.


A renewed call to readers with entrepreneurial instincts: If you (or someone you know) is entrepreneurially minded or even simply has “an idea for a business,” the “Xperiencify” program of the Praxis School of Entrepreneurship (PSE) can help you make it a reality.

The program offers many benefits to anyone with a self-identified differing ability (or “disability”), but who functions highly.

And PSE’s network of support continues long after the program ends.

The PSE is a crucible for fruitful relationships with talented entrepreneurs and alumni, under the powerhouse leadership of Chief Visionary Officer, Monica Kreuger, and her remarkable team.

To learn more, contact program administrator Elaine Mantyka today at: (306) 664-0500, or email elainem@globalinfobrokers.ca



Between 2011 and December 2018, Elizabeth Shih Communications chronicled the stories of B2B marketing and communications on the Prairies and across the country.

Effective January 1, 2019, I rebranded as “Storytelling Communications.” I now help newcomers to Canada land better jobs by improving their English skills; I help SMEs close more sales by communicating better; and I write the legacy stories of major companies.

Interested in learning more? Please contact me through my CASL-compliant website (www.elizabethshih.com).

After I receive your message, I’ll be pleased to discuss projects with you!

Please visit my website for more information (www.storytellingcommunications.ca).


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