What article of clothing has fallen into the most disuse over the last, weird 16-month period? Pants? Long pants? Socks?
A friend argues that it is the humble shoe. His theory is that virtually no one on Teams or Zoom or other video calls is wearing shoes. He’s probably right. Since the camera only shows people (at most) from the waist up, and you’re going to be working from home all day, why lace on your shoes? Even if you’ve got the most comfortable shoes in the world, they can’t be as comfortable as bare feet—so why wear them if nobody can see them?
I would have thought ties would fall into the most disuse—have you seen anyone wearing a tie on a video call?—and women probably would think pantyhose, but of course each of those clothing items tends to be gender-specific. Shoes, on the other hand, are universal and gender-neutral, so my friend is probably right.
We’re all still getting used to video conferencing and Zoom and Teams calls, but I’ve decided there are things I like about them. In a way, they take us back to first principles, and the basic, threshold lessons in interpersonal conduct that we first learned back in kindergarten.
Take the “raise your hand” feature. When was the last time you raised your hand to be called on for anything? But you learned about the importance of raising your hand from your kindergarten teacher — mine was named Mrs. Radick, by the way — who got you to understand that if every kid in the class tried to talk at once it would be chaos, which is why there had to be some mechanism to allow order to prevail. Of course, the same concept applies to a multi-party video call, which would quickly devolve into bedlam and gibberish without a method of organization. That’s why I like the “raise your hand” feature, and the fact that it reminds me of grade school days doesn’t hurt, either.
Other kindergarten concepts apply to video calls, too — like taking your turn, and trying not to interrupt the person who is speaking, which means waiting a decent period after the speaker appears to be done to account for potential technological glitches. These rules are essential to making video technology work, but they also embody core concepts of politeness and civility. I’m sure there are video calls that turn into unfortunate shouting matches, but I’d guess that, on the whole, video calls are more well-mannered and the participants tend to be more deferential and well-behaved than in direct, in-person interaction. The use of the mute button, to make sure that the discussion isn’t interrupted by barking dogs of the garbage truck rolling down the street, is another form of courtesy.