How Tall People Actually Are
And other surprising things about moving from Zoom to the real world
In March 2020, video conferencing became my new reality overnight. Colleagues that were once full-fledged, living and breathing organisms snuck their way into laptop screens, appearing in their full pixelated glory with kids and partners and plants in tow.
We showed up for each other, day after two-dimensional day, talking and talking and talking, deciding, deliberating, asking can you hear me alright, and are you on mute and Oh, what part of New York?
But then a vaccine arrived in January (thank god we suck at predicting things), and the US started skiing down the bunny slope of case counts and death rates. We’re now at an important juncture where many Americans are being pulled out of the inertia of sweatpant-Zooms back into the three-dimensional world of co-working.
Although my employer has yet to announce in-person office plans, I’ve started having in-person meetings with colleagues I’ve only met through my screen. And boy, has it been a trip.
Here are the things I found bizarre when meeting people IRL.
It’s hard to tell how tall people are on Zoom. Our brains extrapolate a person’s full avatar-based only on a pair of shoulders holding up a head. But since video angles distort dimensions, and because we aren’t perfectly proportional beings, that avatar tends to be off when it meets reality.
Limbs are longer or shorter, heads are bigger or smaller, and sometimes I find myself tilting my head up at a person who seemed like they’d be my height. The discrepancies aren’t usually huge, but they are large enough to notice.
It now makes sense to me why most stories about celebrity encounters start with they were taller/shorter than I imagined.
On video, we miss the little things that make a person who they are. You realize people have hand gestures that are often hidden by the camera’s frame. You see how they…