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Four Ways to Reduce Zoom Fatigue

After a long day of video calls, you might feel like your brain has been wrung out like a wet washcloth—we certainly do. It’s exhausting to stare into a computer for hours every day while participating in meetings or classes. This condition is called Zoom fatigue, and it’s a recent affliction for most of us because the pandemic has dramatically increased the popularity of video calls. We don’t mean to beat on Zoom here—this condition plagues people who use Cisco WebEx, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Skype, and other videoconferencing software too.

But there are techniques you can employ to reduce Zoom fatigue. Researchers at Stanford University have identified four reasons why video calls are so tiring and offer suggestions on making them less so. They include:

  • Close-up eye contact is overwhelming. You usually sit about an arm’s length from your computer display, and if one person is on screen at a time, their head may be close to life-size. You’d never be that near someone’s face in real life unless they were a close family member, and even then, you wouldn’t hold that position for long. Shrink your window or switch to gallery view so you’re talking to postage stamps rather than feeling like someone is up in your face.
  • Looking at yourself is psychologically harmful. We all have mirrors, but can you imagine staring into one for hours every day? Only a pathological narcissist would do that. Worse, constantly seeing your own image can make you worry about your appearance and what others think of you. Once you’ve verified that you’re properly framed and don’t have salad in your teeth, hide your preview or switch to a view that doesn’t include you.
  • Sitting perfectly still is difficult. This is hardest on kids, but even adults have trouble staying sufficiently still to remain perfectly framed in a video window. When you’re on a standard phone call or in an in-person meeting, you might pace around the room or at least adjust your position in your chair. Try turning off your camera when possible—most calls work just as well without video—or position it so you can fidget or pace in person. Another solution is Apple’s Center Stage technology on the new M1-based iPad Pros, which automatically pans and zooms to keep you in the picture as you move around.
  • Video calls make you constantly think about call mechanics. There’s nothing natural about interacting with multiple people on a screen, so we’ve all come up with behaviors (some of which we just recommended!) to smooth over the cracks in the system. For instance, your brain has to expend extra effort to help you stay framed in the video window, worry about how you look, use exaggerated facial expressions so people know you’re paying attention, and use techniques like a thumbs-up to indicate approval without unmuting. The solution is to turn off your camera and hide the video window so your brain can take a break and focus on just the audio content of the call.

You’ll notice that most of the recommendations for reducing the mental strain of video calls come down to eliminating video. It shouldn’t be surprising because talking on the phone isn’t nearly as tiring, even when you’re on a conference call with a couple of people. There’s no question that video can help convey information that would be lost in a phone call, and it’s nice to see far-flung friends and family, but there’s no rule that video calls are the best form of communication for all situations.

We’ve started to put these recommendations into practice ourselves, and we encourage you to do so as well. And if you need support for why you’re turning off your camera or asking for audio-only calls, send people a link to this article.

(Featured image by Anna Shvets from Pexels)


Social Media: Why are video calls so exhausting when all you’re doing is sitting around and talking? Here’s the word from Stanford University researchers, along with advice on making those non-stop calls less tiring.

Not a Fan of Big Sur’s Translucent Menu Bar? Here’s How to Disable It

In macOS 11 Big Sur, Apple went back to a design direction from the earliest days of Mac OS X: a translucent menu bar. Since its color changes depending on the desktop picture, many people aren’t enamored of it (left, below). Luckily, reverting to the traditional opaque menu bar is simple. Open System Preferences > Accessibility > Display and select Reduce Transparency. That will turn the menu bar gray again and make other windows and menus opaque, too (right, below). Simple gray might not be as whizzy as fancy transparency, but it’s more predictable and easier to see.

(Featured image by aung nyi on Unsplash)

Choose Your Preferred Default Web Browser and Email App in iOS and iPadOS 14

Since the earliest days of the iPhone, Apple’s Safari and Mail have been the default Web and email apps for iOS and, later, iPadOS. There was no way to choose alternatives that would be used whenever an app wanted to open a Web page or create an email message. That has now changed with iOS 14 and iPadOS 14. To switch to a different Web browser (such as Brave, DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser, Firefox, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, or Opera Touch) or a different email app (such as Boomerang, Chuck, Hey, Gmail, Outlook, Polymail, or Spark), follow these directions. In Settings, tap the name of the browser or email app you want to set as the default. Then tap Default Browser App or Default Mail App and select the desired app.

(Featured image based on an original by Sotiris Gkolias from Pexels)

Need to Save Bandwidth on Your iPhone? Try Low Data Mode

Even as we get 5G cellular connectivity and high-speed Wi-Fi networks, there are plenty of times when you might want to reduce your data usage. Perhaps you’re trying to avoid running over a data cap while traveling, or maybe you’re sharing a Wi-Fi network with a very slow Internet connection. Either way, you can prevent your iPhone from using more data than necessary by enabling Low Data Mode. For cellular, find the switch in Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data Options. For Wi-Fi, in Settings > Wi-Fi, tap the i button next to the network you’re using. In either case, make sure to turn Low Data Mode off once you no longer need it to avoid getting confused about why background sync tasks don’t complete.

(Featured image by Hilary Clark from Pixabay)

Did You Know That Your iPhone Can “Name That Tune”?

Several years ago, Apple bought a company called Shazam, which made an app that identified songs by listening to the music playing nearby. Since then, Apple has built Shazam into Siri in iOS, iPadOS, macOS, and watchOS. Most recently, Apple added it to Control Center in iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 as well, so you can invoke it without speaking. To use Shazam, whenever you want to identify a song that’s playing nearby, just ask Siri, “What’s playing?” or tell it “Name that tune” or have some fun and say “Shazam!” To add Shazam to Control Center, navigate to Settings > Control Center, and tap the green + button next to Music Recognition. Then, from Control Center, tap the button to start it listening—you can return to whatever you were doing. When the song is identified, a notification appears with its name. Tap the notification to open the song in the Music app.

(Featured image by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels)

Amazing New Tips for Rearranging Apps on Your iPhone or iPad

You’ve likely seen our tip on using the Dock on an iPhone or iPad as a temporary holding place that makes rearranging apps easier. We’ve learned two new tips that help even more! First, you can move multiple apps at once. Start by touching an app, waiting to feel a tap, and then moving it (or just touch and hold and tap Edit Home Screen to enter jiggle mode first). Once you’ve picked up an app, drag it down to the blank spot on the right side of the Home screen just above the Dock so you can see what you’re doing while keeping your finger down. Then, with a finger on your other hand, tap other apps to “stack” them on the first app. Now move the stack to the desired location and lift your finger. Second, instead of laboriously dragging the stack to another Home screen, before you lift your finger to drop the stack, use that other finger to swipe left or right to move between Home screens—in essence, you’re moving the Home screen under the stack you’re holding. For a visual demo of these tips, see the TidBITS video.

(Featured image by ammiel jr on Unsplash)

How to Make Sure Your iPhone Doesn’t Make Noise in the Night

You likely know that you can use Do Not Disturb to prevent random notifications on your iPhone from waking you at night—it’s easy to set a Do Not Disturb schedule for your usual sleeping hours. Another setting in there is important but often overlooked. If you ever use your iPhone during those Do Not Disturb hours—perhaps to read a book while a partner or roommate is asleep—you don’t want it to make any noise. To prevent that, in Settings > Do Not Disturb, make sure to set Silence to Always instead of While iPhone Is Locked.

(Featured image by Kristina Flour on Unsplash)

Use These Settings to Show or Hide Filename Extensions

On the Mac, nearly every file has an extension, a set of characters after a period that indicates what type of file it is and determines which app opens it. So, .png indicates a PNG graphic that opens in Preview by default, .pages denotes a Pages document, and .docx identifies a file as belonging to and opening in Microsoft Word. Plus, the extension for all applications is .app. Depending on what you do, how often you exchange files with people on other platforms, and your personal preference, you may wish to see more or fewer extensions. You control that in Finder > Preferences > Advanced, with the “Show all filename extensions” checkbox. Individual files can override the setting, so if an extension isn’t doing what you want, select the file, choose File > Get Info, and check or uncheck the Hide Extension checkbox in the Info window.

(Featured image created with originals by Patrick Ward on Unsplash and Mateusz Zdrzałek from Pixabay)

Too Many Home Screens in iOS 14? Here’s How to Hide Them!

The App Library in iOS 14 ensures that you can find all the apps installed on your iPhone without having to hunt through Home screens. So if you already have a lot of Home screens that contain a random assemblage of apps, it might be easier to hide those screens than to remove all the apps on them. To do this in iOS 14, touch and hold any empty spot on the Home screen to enter jiggle mode. Then tap the lozenge around the dots that represent your Home screens. In the Edit Pages screen, tap the checkmark under any Home screen to hide it (or tap an empty circle to add a checkmark and show that Home screen). To save your changes, tap Done. As a bonus tip, notice that swiping on that lozenge of Home screen dots is now a quick way to navigate between the Home screens.

(Featured image based on an original by cottonbro from Pexels)

Want Better Goals? Customize Your Move, Exercise, and Stand Rings in watchOS 7

Ever since Apple introduced the Activity app to watchOS, you’ve been able to adjust your Move goal, which is measured in kilocalories, but your Exercise goal was locked at 30 minutes and the Stand goal at 12 hours. In watchOS 7, you can finally change these last two. In the Activity app on your Apple Watch, scroll to the bottom and tap Change Goals. Then, for each screen, adjust the goal numbers in whatever way will most motivate you. Some people like setting the goals higher than they’re likely to reach so they can more easily see how well they’ve done as a percent of the whole, whereas others might like to tweak them so the goals are just a little out of reach.

(Featured image by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels)