Zoom fatigue: Did that affect the infamous cat lawyer?

Texan county attorney, Rod Ponton, went viral after he appeared with an accidental cat-filter in a virtual hearing this week. We ask experts how serious is Zoom fatigue?

rod ponton

Texan lawyer Rod Ponton has gone viral after accidentally activating a kitten filter during virtual court proceedings. Source: Press Association

The 'cat lawyer' video from the virtual proceedings of 394th Judicial District Court in Texas turned a routine court proceeding into a viral sensation.

County attorney, Rod Ponton, entered the Zoom meeting with a cat filter, which was quickly pointed out by Judge Roy Ferguson.

"Mr Ponton, I believe you have a filter turned on in the video settings," Judge Ferguson said.

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Mr Ponton responded by alerting the judge that his assistant was attempting to fix the settings. He also hilariously wanted to make clear, "I'm here live, I'm not a cat."

"I can see that," Judge Ferguson said.

After the cat-filled proceedings, Judge Ferguson took to Twitter to give a reminder on what to do if your child has used your computer before a virtual hearing.

"These fun moments are a by-product of the legal profession's dedication to ensuring that the justice system continues to function in these tough times. Everyone involved handled it with dignity, and the filtered lawyer showed incredible grace. True professionalism all around!," he tweeted.

Did 'the cat lawyer' have Zoom fatigue?

Mr Ponton, or as he's now colloquially known as 'the cat lawyer', joins a large number of people who've had Zoom mishaps over the last year - many of which have gone viral.

And for Phillip Smith, a Professor of Psychological Sciences at the University of Melbourne, it's just a more "hilarious example" of the stress involved in dealing with Zoom.

"Even experienced zoom users constantly have little failures, like failing to unmute or...failing to turn off their video when they should," Professor Smith told The Feed.

Zoom fatigue is a term that's emerged in our new COVID-normal world.

Dr Katie Greenaway, a senior lecturer in Psychology at the University of Melbourne, described it as a feeling of negativity, disinterest, or exhaustion that arises after too much online interaction with people.

"When we say Zoom fatigue, we're often referring to a sort of sense of burnout, or not being able to put energy into additional tasks," Dr Greenaway told The Feed.

But Dr Greenaway isn't sure that what happened to Mr Ponton can be associated with Zoom fatigue.

"He certainly was quite worked up about it and anxious. It sounded like he just had a lot going on, rather than maybe the kind of burnout side of Zoom fatigue," she said.

However, Dr Greenaway said anxiety can also contribute to Zoom fatigue. She explained that interacting in person gives us a dopamine surge in the brain that is lost in the virtual world.

"We don't have that when we're interacting virtually, with people, we don't get as much of that social rush as we get when we're actually interacting with people," she said.

The demands of a Zoom call might seem small but Professor Smith said there are a number of things at work that can heighten stress.

"One of the kinds of side manifestations of that is people just forgetting to do a bunch of little things that they should do, such as replacing the cat avatar with themselves," he said.


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3 min read
Published 11 February 2021 at 4:29pm
By Ahmed Yussuf
Source: SBS