CSUN Student Researches Effects of COVID-19 and Zoom Fatigue

December 22, 2022

By: Riley Sullivan

Sanjiti Sharma

Photograph by Briana Walden

SAN DIEGO — As the world approaches three years since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists are beginning to assess some of the effects that the increased screen time has had on people.

Sanjiti Sharma, a biology major at California State University, Northridge (CSUN), has experienced the elevated hours of screen time herself and decided to examine the effects of the practice. She shared the findings from her research last month at the Society of Neuroscience conference in San Diego.

“I have always been deeply passionate about the brain and how it functions,” said Sharma, “I was very curious about how one is affected by videoconferencing especially while learning [in college]. This is why I wanted to look into how we are affected, but most importantly, how can we have a better experience communicating through videoconferencing platforms.

Her project, Lights, camera, fatigue? Exploring the relationship of Zoom Fatigue with videoconferencing camera usage and social pressure aligns with her career goals. The University Student Union (USU) student administrative assistant who works in Administration is minoring in psychology said she will pursue work in the neuroscience field while also working on cognitive psychology research. This, along with noticing a difference in how people communicate and socialize after the COVID-19 pandemic, is what led her to focus her research on Zoom fatigue.

Her research team consisted of five student researchers. At the conference, the team had four hours to present their research, which they divided up evenly. She said that several Visual Information Sciences and Neuroscience lab members helped prepare her to present the research at the conference. The students often do run-throughs of the presentation to make sure that they can answer any questions people may have.

The study found that while videoconferencing does affect people socially, camera usage had no effect on Zoom fatigue. According to Sharma, the best way to combat Zoom fatigue is to be more present.

To hone in the skill of being more mindful, which we all need to be doing a lot more of, all we have to do is take out a few minutes in your day to sit and meditate,” said Sharma.

For her, combatting Zoom fatigue is about staying interactive during videoconferencing calls.

“I try to ask questions, or on days when I feel shy, I try to interact using the little Emojis at the bottom. I have noticed that the more present and interactive I am during the Zoom meetings, the less fatigued I feel, Sharma said.

While some students had negative experiences with online classes during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sharma said she was able to benefit from the flexibility of online learning.

“I have enjoyed attending school during the pandemic, said Sharma, “It gave me a chance to plan out my own schedule and work on classes on my own time.

Sharma chose CSUN based on not only its inclusivity and financial aid options, but also the support she received from the biology department specifically. Her goal is to become a professor and conduct her own research, as well as mentor students.

Sanjiti Sharma

Photograph by Briana Walden