A New Normal
by Brooke Wolfenbarger | published Oct. 6th, 2020
During this pandemic, we have all at one point or another logged on to Zoom. We use Zoom in a lot of different ways, but where did it start and how did it grow to as big of a company as it is today?
One of the most common applications that people have been using recently is Zoom. Since March 2020, Zoom has been skyrocketing in popularity as many schools and companies have been using its features. At the beginning of the year, according to a CNN report, Zoom was getting 56,000 downloads globally per day. By March, this number reached two million downloads per day.
Even though Zoom has been increasing in demand, the forum has been around since 2011. In the last few months, Zoom has gained traction and become a vital part of our culture today — it has gone from something we used sparingly to something that is a necessity to daily living.
So, why Zoom? There are a lot of people that are very familiar with apps like Whatsapp and Facetime that offer similar features as Zoom: they allow you to video chat with people around the world.
For some people like Bernadette Lanciaux, a lecturer in RIT's School of Mathematical Sciences, navigating Zoom wasn’t easy at first.
“I was very intimidated by it [Zoom],” stated Lanciaux.
Even though Zoom might have a large audience now, it was a new tool for many and has taken time to grow as big as it is today.
One way Zoom has grown as large as it has is because Zoom offers a lot of benefits and features that many other video chatting tools don’t have.
For Vivek Narayanan, a senior lecturer in the School of Physics and Astronomy, learning what Zoom has to offer was enjoyable and he caught on fast.
Zoom has so many different elements and for Narayanan it was important to “learn some of the newer [features] and I think I learned them pretty quickly.”
According to Business Insider, Zoom’s biggest advantage is that other video chatting applications don’t have the high quality video Zoom provides. Zoom has features such as the ability to record, screen share and create transcripts and breakout rooms that are very beneficial in work and school settings.
Even if you are using Zoom to meet up with friends virtually, you have the ability to change your background which can keep people engaged.
The biggest thing Zoom has brought to the table though is the cultural impact that it has had around the world.
Whether it’s your first day of school, happy hour with your friends from across the country or being able to see a loved one in the hospital, Zoom has had many important roles to a lot of different people.
In the age of social distancing, one of the biggest things on people’s mind is safety. Having to be socially distanced from people and staying healthy are very important. Zoom offers people a way to stay safe, while also making sure people aren’t missing out on important opportunities and life events over a video call.
For Narayanan, “it opens up what it means to be in a classroom.”
"It opens up what it means to be in a classroom."
Narayanan teaches a hybrid class and has noticed a difference between the kids in Zoom and the ones that come to class.
“[For] the ones in class, it's almost as though the air has been sucked dry and there’s no oxygen in the room,” he stated.
Being in a room with less than half a class and socially distanced, while wearing a mask can be very uncomfortable for many people.
Zoom is giving teachers and students a platform to continue education, while also keeping them safe. For many people, especially parents, it’s a very important aspect. It was no surprise when schools announced either a hybrid method or remote option for fall classes. At the forefront of this stood Zoom.
Zoom has also made small cultural impacts for society. For Lanciaux, it is as simple as being more familiar working with video and being on camera, which most of us are not used to in a daily setting.
She stated, “I think we are all more comfortable doing video then we were before.”
"I think we are all more comfortable doing video then we were before."
She continued by saying, “It has allowed people to get together who wouldn’t otherwise.”
Zoom has allowed us to continue being a part of communities such as church, or just being able to have dinner and a drink with a close friend in a socially distanced environment. Zoom has become a necessity in today’s culture to be familiar with.
The Future Is Bright
Even in the darkest of days, Zoom brings us some light. Zoom has made such an impact on our culture and our society that it probably won’t go away even when COVID-19 does.
Both Narayanan and Lanciaux see the impact of Zoom leading to more opportunities for schools and universities to grow.
The ability to reach a more global and diverse audience is something Narayanan hopes to see more of. Reaching out to a wider audience will be beneficial to students all over the world.
“Pushing online classes especially with their presence in Croatia and Dubai ... you can simply stream these classes,” Narayanan stated.
For Lanciaux, it is being able to create new online classes and have them more available to students. This allows students to take more opportunities outside of school, while still keeping up with curriculum.
“I had taught an online class many years ago. I hated it. There was no synchronous component to it ... but now I feel like I would be willing to do that,” Lanciaux said.
The possibilities are endless with Zoom, whether it be teaching more online classes, being able to reach a wider audience or as simple as having the ability to Zoom during a snowstorm or dangerous weather.
Zoom and online platforms have transformed how we go about our days as a society. Our mindsets have changed and applications like Zoom have become a necessity. How our society will continue to adapt and how this will affect our culture moving forward is a mystery.