Pros and cons of keeping your camera on for Zoom classes

Illustration of a woman on a video call, wearing a blazer combined with pajama bottoms
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Going to class on Zoom can be a difficult situation to navigate. Sometimes, you wake up on time and have a lovely Zoom class in your backyard. Other times, you wake up one minute before Berkeley Time, log onto class and fall asleep five minutes later. One thing that can help a lot in this kind of scenario is turning your camera on — it’s way more embarrassing to fall asleep and have people see. But at the same time, having your camera on can be stressful, and it can sometimes be a little tricky if your Wi-Fi isn’t so strong. If you’ve been weighing the pros and cons of turning your camera on for your Zoom classes, here is a comprehensive guide to the benefits and detriments of pressing that little “on” button for your computer camera. 


You actually have to pay attention

It is so much easier to pay attention when you’re being held accountable. Seriously, when the camera is on, you can’t just be sleeping or showering or making lunch. I mean you could, but it would be a little weird. If you’ve been struggling to actually take notes and stay away from your phone during class, turning your camera on is a good way to force yourself to pay attention — or at least look like you are.

Your professor will like you

Zoom school is weird for everyone, professors included. If you’ve ever had to lead a club meeting or present in class over Zoom, you know it can feel a little sad to be talking to a bunch of empty black screens. Many professors really enjoy seeing that you’re engaged in class. After all, they want to be teaching students, not screens. And even if you don’t care that much about your professor’s comfort — which you should, by the way — turning on your camera is a good way to win points with them if you’re trying to get career advice or letters of recommendation later on.

You’ll learn better (probably)

Chances are, the more you actually pay attention, take notes and pretend you’re in a normal school, the more you will learn and absorb. Watching lectures on double speed is efficient, but you’re definitely not actually absorbing as much. When you put a little more effort into going to class, you’ll learn a lot more.

You’ll have a reason to get dressed

OK, this one is a little sad, but honestly, we’ve all been there for the past year. The more you actually get up and get ready for school, the better. Even though going to class in the sweats I wore to bed can be super cozy, I always feel a little better about myself when I actually get ready for the day. Turning on your camera can be your motivation.


You have to pay attention

So the flip side of being empowered to pay attention is that you have to pay attention. Zoom school can be pretty exhausting, and sometimes it can be nice to take a little phone break during a dull moment in class. Or during the whole class. It happens!

You can’t eat snacks

I absolutely love snacking during class. It is 100% the best part of online school. Some people eat with their cameras on, but I always feel a tiny bit rude doing that. So, the unfortunate consequence of having your camera on is that your opportunities to snack in class go bye-bye.

Sometimes you feel self-conscious

Does anyone else always feel like they’re being stared at when they have their camera on over Zoom? At least with in-person lectures, only the professor and people around you can see you. Over Zoom, everyone is staring directly at your face. And everyone’s probably staring directly at that huge pimple that formed overnight. I mean probably not, but … maybe? I always get distracted looking at my own face and wondering if I always look like that in class. 

Sometimes roommates make it weird

If you live with other people, turning your camera on can be a little complicated. Whether it’s your roommates freaking out over a knock at the door or a (hopefully) small kitchen fire, there are lots of reasons for you to become very obviously distracted during class. Sometimes, there’s even commotion in the background of your video (or just your roommate making lunch).

There are lots of pros and cons to turning your camera on for Zoom classes. Some days, it happens, and other days, you’re not quite the model student you thought you were. Cut yourself some slack! Or just message your GSI that your camera is broken. 

Contact Elysa Dombro at [email protected].