My Virtual Handshake Fail

I am upset and cannot get over the fact that I could not connect with 22 human beings because a virtual window would not open.

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Image for post
Artwork by: Gerd Altmann

My hands were shaking and my body was sweating, yes, but not because I was nervous; I was helpless and loosing my cool. I tried everything, de-activated the pop-up blocker and successfully initiated the test session again but the launch button for the actual group session scheduled at 4:30pm was simply unresponsive. I tried the Chrome browser but my password was in the virtual keychain of Safari and I had to proclaim that I forgot a randomly generated password which I never memorized in the first place, only to be re-directed to reset my password from my Mail app to the Safari browser again where I was already logged in.

I am not a complete idiot when it comes to computers — I coded webpages at a time when HTML was the way to do it — but there I was feeling like a maladroit, worried about those whom I had kept waiting, and unnerved that a meeting I had committed to was not about to happen. The session was with a group of students at a virtual opportunities fair hosted on Handshake. I had successfully hosted another session earlier that afternoon, so the surprising onset of this ordeal was unbearable. By 4:40pm I finally relented and decided it was best to inform everyone that I would not be able to make it.

My thoughts about virtual meetings have been conflicted, and this diatribe is at last brought to you by my last experience. Or is Covid-19 more worthy of the attribution?

If it were not for the Covid-19 social restrictions in place, I would have had to make a two hour trip to the fair like I did last year. I was relieved that the burden of the carbon footprint was taken off my shoulder, and that I did not have to be confined to a vehicle for the duration of the trip. The physical fair was also not the best medium to interact in-person as I often found myself constrained on the time I could spend with one student while having to keep another waiting, repeating myself, and trying to listen and be heard over the chatter engulfing everyone. I also sympathized with the students who had to maneuver their way around the maze of represented organizations inconveniently dispersed over two separate halls!

My thinking that I was letting down those who had expected me to be there somehow allowed me to overlook the fact that despite the inconvenience I had caused, the students did not have to budge from in front of their computer screens to meet me. It is funny how writing helps me put matters into perspective. I have been meaning to write about virtual meetings for a while now, having expressed my opinon about the wastefulness of events around the same time last year, and about the banality of having to sit in a room to watch people speak, following the last live event I participated in before the lockdown.

To be continued…

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