From a Student: The Threats of Zoom to My Social Etiquette

This is an example of why remote learning has encapsulated the weaknesses of my social etiquette.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Dear high school educator (a.k.a. adult I see for 55 minutes every other day),

Hey, you! Yes, you, the real person on my screen! I can’t believe we’ve developed a somewhat cohesive relationship outside of reluctant breakout room discussions. It all started off with a live digital staring contest in September, when I refused to unmute until I was faced with the haunting thought of participation grades. It’s May now, and you’ve either received a “thank you” from me at the end of class, or an e-mail at 1:00 a.m. asking for an extension for a lovely assignment. Oh, how the times have changed.

So let’s cut to the chase and get to second base. Reality has just struck me that we all live on this overpopulated concrete jungle landmass. That just means we might have to see each other in person soon. I’m (not) looking forward to this after 14 months of hermiting, but if our physical meeting is an inevitable fate, I would like to express my concern for something, Ms., or Mrs., or Mr., or Dr., or whatever.

I respectfully fear the powers of the “touch up my appearance” and “background” features on Zoom. I will admit, sometimes I crank that touch-up slider up to the max, but that is only because I don’t want you to see the rebirth of your sleep paralysis demon my sleep-deprived-from-Tiktok persona at 10:00 a.m. in the morning. I am not hypocritical and will not blame you for doing the same thing. I’m even writing this entire message just to prove how unhypocritical I truly am. But I do have some very valid concerns.

If I ever see you around Stuy, at Ferry’s, Whole Foods, or in that random corner grocery store I think no one goes to, I want to unleash my proper student etiquette to acknowledge your presence. However, this becomes nearly impossible when I don’t *really* know what you look like. It’s even beyond Zoom’s handy dandy features. I can’t see you beyond the thing that props up your head and some of you are five feet tall with a seven-foot personality! So when I’ve attached a mental image of a person with NBA athlete height to a person of average Joe height, I’ve basically lied to myself. Thus, I have two options: stare into the abyss aimlessly just to say hello after what feels like an eternity later, or just accidentally (?) ignore you and walk away. And by accidentally, I mean deliberately.

See, if you were a friend I’ve met in one of your classes, I would simply text them and let them know that we’re coincidentally in the same vicinity, and we’d wave to each other at least six feet apart. Perhaps, a back and forth “Dude why do I see someone who looks exactly like you in the supermarket rn” “Wait what which one” “Wholefoods lol” “Omg I think I see you actually” would suffice. And that’s that. Good social etiquette, check.

But it gets so complicated when it comes to you. On one hand, I have as faint of a recollection of you as I do of what happened this entire school year. On the other hand, I know of your existence and you’ve taken note of mine. I even googled, “Is it rude to not say hi to a teacher in public?” I got mixed responses from a very credible source named “Reddit.” Let me know if you would like an MLA citation for this.

I couldn’t tell you the real origin of my concern and it's not like I go out enough for this scenario to be a possibility, or that you care enough or remember me for it to matter. Regardless, please write back to help calm my very rational panic. Thank you for your time, cooperation, consideration, dedication, commitment, and sacrifice from reading this message.


Your overthinking student from Zoom :)

P.S. Nothing because I’ve wasted enough of your time by sending you this e-mail. Whoops, just wasted more. At this point, can you just tell me if I should say hi or not? Thanks again.