Should Students Have the Option to Turn Their Cameras Off During Zoom?

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Rebecca Silber ’23

Learning from home has certainly been a strange and unfamiliar experience for all of us. When I say that, I’m not only referring to the strangeness of not going to school every day, which has been, of course, a massive alteration in our daily lives, but I am also  referring  to the strangeness of turning our own homes into a new and improved learning environment. It feels like the fine line that once divided our “home lives” from our “school lives” has suddenly vanished. While the list of complaints concerning Zoom school can go on and on, it’s not going anywhere. Zoom is an essential requirement during this pandemic. However, I do think that there are certain things about Zoom school that should not be required, most notably, the requirement to turn our cameras on during class.

For me, home has always felt like my safe haven, especially when things aren’t going too well in school. Therefore, meshing my school life with my home environment has been a very difficult and intrusive process for me. Zoom is the best we’ve got, and isn’t going anywhere. However, I do feel that what makes Zoom so invasive and strange is the camera feature that provides a lense into one’s personal life. Especially for those who are more introverted, the whole class having the ability to view your room and working space can feel extremely uncomfortable. In addition, some students may have things going on at home, and don’t want to risk that type of exposure through such an intimate way of communication. From my own experience, I would say that although I don’t feel remarkably uncomfortable with the camera situation, I often get creeped out by the fact that my classmates and teachers currently have a front row view of my bedroom. 

Lastly, I believe that many people, including myself, don’t always want to show their face on screen! We’ve all had bad hair days before, and during those times it would be ideal to have the option to turn off your camera. And without that option, students might even pay more attention to fixing themselves up so that they look more presentable on screen, than to the actual class itself! 

Overall, with the ability to turn off one’s camera during Zoom, students will feel more comfortable attending class online, which is already such a strange and uncomfortable experience on its own. If students feel that for whatever reason, they would prefer learning online without their cameras turned on, they should be granted every right to do so, for it will only make them more comfortable and focused in class.