Zoom: A Blessing and a Curse for Communication

“A Mixed Reaction from the UH Hilo Community on Virtual Learning”

Staff writer: Victoria Jose
Graphic Designer: Naomi Lemieux

Illustation of email message Communication is one of the main components of being human. Whether verbal or non-verbal, And it is on this building block that we are able to reach out and build communities. It is no wonder that when people are forced to isolate themselves from each other, detachment and discouragement grips them.

The main forms of communication that a majority of us have experienced in college life is attending events on campus, chatting with classmates over lunch, or even just attending class. This type of communication with others helps shape most of our lives. But how are we able to do this now? Can we fight what is in our biology?

Dr. Alexander Nagurney is a social psychologist and an assistant professor at UH Hilo, and he gives an explanation of the psychology aspects of communication. It is a survival mechanism. To understand this, we have to go pretty far back in our history to hunter- gather roots to be exact. Socialization was used between people to get either what they want or needed; they would use them as a resource. This idea stayed with us through the years as we evolved.

Touch allows us to convey a sense of care and trust, such as through a handshake or hug. However, this is something that we often take for granted. When we give someone a hug, hormones such as oxytocin are released, which give us that good feeling. In these times where a hug or even a fist bump is out of the question, what is one to do?

“The more types of activities we can do to try and stay in touch with people, the more of it we can get back,” Dr. Nagurney said, the “it” being that fulfillment we get from communication with others. While it might not completely fill the void, late-night Zoom calls, long text messages, or even an old-fashioned handwritten letter, are a start to rekindling our socialization with one another.

Dr. Nagurney also makes references to other types of community interactions that existed prior to the pandemic, such as online gaming. While these activities cannot fully satisfy the need for communication, it might just be the key to helping us get through these troubling times.

UH Hilo Professor Ronald Gordon's communication classes have undergone major changes in the last few months. Some may have experienced firsthand, pre-pandemic Gordon’s classes were filled with activities that involve communication, such as through seminars. When the second half of Spring 2020 was carried out online, it took some getting used to. For him, what he had already established with his students in-person could be translated well over Zoom. “I can look out and see everyone in the class and can see all their faces really contently in a way I can’t do in a classroom. There is something about getting that overview as a whole that is good.” So, while a Zoom class might seem like a big barrier, it might bring more to classes than we have known before.

David Freund is a sophomore and Holly Trowbridge a senior. Both have faced different experiences and challenges with classes moving online. “I have adapted but I have other preferences” Freund said. The biggest challenge for Trowbridge is being 4,107 miles away from school. “I feel excluded due to the time zone” she said.

A Writer's Tip for Staying Connected

The UH Hilo Ohana is spread out across the globe with sometimes just a Zoom class being able to connect us. However, if this is the only way that you are connecting to others, then it is not enough. School clubs and extracurricular activities are good ways to branch out and meet people who have similar interests as your own. Maybe after your next class, ask if anyone wants to chat more about the lesson. Or, when it comes time for midterms (which is going to be on us sooner than we know) maybe schedule a virtual study session.

While it seems that things are taking a few steps back, we can have hope that one day we will be able to meet in person and have a regular hand shake-- although I think that hugs might become more in style for a while - Victoria Jose