A satire on Zoom, forgotten social skills and encountering actual human beings again

Time to relearn forms of interaction and communication

The hybrid learning model is ready to be implemented, but there is no end in sight for remote learning. No matter when the hybrid schedule is finally put in place, there is much for students to re-learn upon their return to semi-normal schooling. It’s especially important for students to be made aware of these issues and to relearn important social skills before returning to the salmon-pink hallways of Miramonte High School.

Experts offer advice for students returning to school who want to brush up on social skills and re-learn appropriate forms of interaction and communication.

“Due to the long period of time spent away from school, social interactions will definitely be different,” Sasha Byers, founder of the Zoom Recovery Clinic which helps treat Zoom-induced burn out, said. “I’ve seen many cases of intense burn out, especially in teens, and it takes a while to re-establish their social skills.”

The Miramonte student body has formed new habits in light of remote learning that require correction. It is expected that many students have lost practice using social skills. It may take even longer for these types of social interactions to feel normal again. Here are just a few social behaviors that should be addressed PRIOR to school reopening

EYE CONTACT: Making eye contact and holding normal conversations will be massive challenges upon returning to school, and will take months to achieve correctly. According to a study by the National Association of Social Interaction, over 80 percent of teenagerss have been affected by extended online schooling, with 70 percent struggling to make eye contact and 78 percent struggling to speak and hold conversations after numerous months of being muted and having their cameras turned off in school video calls. New programs around the nation are being created in order to assist the new wave of social anxiety caused by long term isolation.

Not only will conversations take time to get used to, but everyday skills that haven’t been used in months will take time to re-develop. “I haven’t made eye contact with anyone in months. Once I made accidental eye contact with a stranger in the grocery store, and I almost cried because it felt so awkward,” Miramonte sophomore Janet Wilson said.

IN-PERSON CONVERSATIONS: “I talked to my cousin two months ago for Thanksgiving. It was the first time I saw another student in person for about eight months. At some point in the conversation I went mute and completely stopped talking. I think I forgot I was having an actual conversation where I can’t just mute myself,” Miramonte senior Matthew Walker said.

Walker expects this to be a big issue when he returns to school. “In-person school will require me to have a lot of conversations. I just don’t know if I’m ready for that yet,” Walker said. Many other students will have similar issues, and in order to have a normally functioning school environment, students need to learn to have in-person conversations and fast.

ZOOM HABITS: Zoom calls have enabled students with new freedoms as they work from home. Going back to school will be a big change, and students will have to get used to a whole new environment. “I’m not ready to go back to school. It means I’ll have to ask for permission for everything, going to the bathroom, eating food, etc. When I’m at home, I can go grab food whenever I want, I can take classes in bed in my pajamas everyday, I can multitask during Zoom calls and treat my classes like podcasts. I’m not really willing to give all that up,” senior Andre Newman said.

FACIAL EXPRESSIONS: Another facet of in-person conversation that will be tough are facial expressions.

Facial expressions hold a huge amount of importance.“During quarantine, I laughed at something my friend said. She had her mask on so I couldn’t really see her face, and her voice was kind of muffled. She started crying and hasn’t talked to me since, and I still have no idea what she said,” freshman Sarah Richardson said.

A poll taken by the California Facial Expressions Coalition revealed that conversations are 64 percent more awkward, 80 percent of which are caused by long silences from attempts to decipher other people’s emotions through a mask. This is a big issue, may cause huge misunderstandings, and even extend classes past their allotted times due to conversational error and confusion.

“My biggest tip for students returning to school is to audibly state your emotions and tone of voice when speaking to reduce confusion. For example, when frustrated with an assignment, tell your teacher ‘I have angry emotions, and my face looks frustrated…’ and then proceed with what you want to say. It may take some time to get used to, but will allow you to clearly communicate while wearing a mask,” Ned Jacobs, lead psychiatrist at the Student Relations Psychiatry Group said.