It’s difficult to have control over many things today. Even having control over your space is getting more and more difficult. Before, one had to worry about calls from numbers, persistent beeps and late and early calls which weren’t emergencies. Video calls have made interactions more fluid and life-like, but this has come with its own issues. Some of these calls could be very intrusive and could cause a lot of embarrassment notably in situations where the interlocutors are neither close nor acquaintances.
About a year ago, I was in one of Yaounde’s popular markets and my attention was caught by a guy on the phone not only because he was codeswitching (English and Pidgin English) but because the call was a video call. He reported every action to the lady he was with on the phone while his companion did most of the bargaining and buying. Immediately he turned the camera to a group of market men and women who were seated in the stalls opposite him, there was an uproar of angry voices asking him to get lost. Insults were thrown at him and from the shock and confusion on his face, he didn’t understand where the “hostility” was coming from.
Almost everyone I know has a crazy video call story or incident. My friends have exchanged pretty amusing, strange and disturbing video call experiences. You have probably heard of stories of people who answered their phones while in the bathroom or just as they showered only to scream or end the call a few seconds later when they realized it was a video call. Imagine how embarrassing this could be and how more embarrassing would be if the call were a group one.
Ambushing people with video calls might seem normal to some people who think they have the right to know where their children, spouses, employees, etc are and what they are doing but again, there are more subtle ways of going about it. It is also important to know everyone is entitled to a certain level of privacy and needs their space and if they decide to share
some of their personal life with you, then it should be because they want to and not because they are compelled or tricked into it.
There are a couple of things that could be done to make video calls more comfortable. I have told most of my friends who love video calls to notify me before calling:
- Notify the person or people you intend to call ahead of time
- Start with a voice call and later switch to a video call. This is also good even in a situation where the person was informed beforehand that he/she was going to be video called.
- For Conference calls, reminders could be sent a few minutes prior to the call.
- If the call is work-related or a business call, make sure you are in a place adapted for such a call before answering. Bedrooms, bathrooms, noisy and crowded places are not appropriate for such calls. Also, state the timeframe of the call and keep to time.
- If you are in a taxi, bus, etc with other people, make sure that the camera faces you directly.
Video calls reduce the gap of distance among peers but will increase the gap if it’s not properly done. That is, making sure the other person will be comfortable with being part of a video call.
The list isn’t exhaustive but it can serve as a guide. Some people set personal boundaries whoo it is also important to find out what their preferences or rules are especially when it comes to business or corporate conference call policies.