Zoom etiquette: Tips on navigating the most awkward social platform

Illustration of people doing chaotic things on zoom, while someone is frantically trying to press buttons on the screen.
Lucy Yang/Staff

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Attending “Zoom University” comes with an entirely new social culture, one filled with muted mics, awkward breakout rooms and, of course, a hefty case of Zoom fatigue. Zoom remains a social platform none of us really know how to operate, yet are forced to adjust to amid a pandemic. So, here are answers to a few questions you may have about what is and isn’t acceptable on Zoom. 

Can you eat on Zoom?

Now that the classroom is being brought directly to your front door (and inside your home), there lie many questions about where to draw the line on certain activities. When your kitchen is 10 steps away, getting hungry during class is a problem that can be solved in just under a minute. The truth is, there is nothing wrong with snacking during a Zoom lecture or sipping on a coffee. However, when you have something like a 10-piece Buffalo wing meal ready to be eaten, the situation changes, as will your classmates’ opinions of you. As long as you make sure to mute your mic, eating politely should be fine in your Zoom class! 

What do you do in breakout rooms with five minutes to spare?

We’ve had our fair share of awkward breakout room sessions, and nothing quite compares to the awkward silence you have with three other people who also have their cameras on. However, sometimes the best thing to do is to try to start a conversation. Because believe us, if the silence is awkward for you, it’s awkward for them too. You can ask them what they think about the class, if they’re living in Berkeley or honestly anything to break the silence! It’s important to note that behind the screens, we’re all just college students trying to navigate our way through Zoom in the least awkward way possible, so start a conversation just as you would if we were all on campus.

When is a good time to turn your camera off?

This is quite possibly the biggest question that lingers throughout a student’s mind during class. Is it rude to turn your camera off? When is the best time to do it? For the most part, turning off your camera to do something or just to stand up for a few minutes is OK. However, when in a discussion section or a smaller classroom, it may help to leave your camera on, for your TA or professor’s sake. Although no one really likes to keep their camera on the whole hour, it may help your professor make a connection and make you feel more integrated into your class.

Although we’re sure this definitely didn’t cure the awkward Zoom breakout sessions, we hope it gave you a good place to start. Happy Zooming!

Contact Isabella Carreno at [email protected].