The Onlines are back, just when you thought you managed to get rid of your new “dysfunctional extended family”

September 2020

After countless meetings online in the past few months we have gotten to know a few characters that fortunately do not exist in real life meetings. Let me introduce you to a few of them:

  1. The forehead – this is a quite common type and you recognise the person instantly because you barely see who it is unless you know him/her very well; all you see is the top of the head. Instead of a face, you see the ceiling in the home and it is not very helpful for understanding someone’s view on the topic for discussion. You can point it out discretely in the private chat function, but you might as well not bother because this one tends to be a repeat offender.
  2. The nostrils – this will be a sackable offence in future employment contracts. Man or woman, once you have shared the insides of your nostrils – and what might be there –there is no coming back. You will have traumatised your fellow meeting participants so severely that they will forever have flashbacks to your nostrils if you ever show up in zoom again. Like victims of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder they will be thrown back to the trauma and be unable to listen to anything about the budget.
  3. The almost-absent – this distant family member offers a unique challenge because they are present at the meeting, but not really. There is someone there in the far distance but you have little chance of seeing who it is, especially if you are more than ten people in the meeting. If you quickly need to scan a group to find him/her your eye will keep scanning past the void of where your colleague should be. The meeting would be more productive if the almost-absent decided to take the afternoon off instead.
  4. In the dark – this one is characterised by its initial innocence and cause for increasing irritation. At first you think it is just a shadow, but you soon realise that it is neglect and carelessness which causes your blood pressure to rise. Whoever it is has not bothered to turn the lights on or face the window. Sometimes you see some facial features but mostly this one remains faceless, like a hooded death figure that haunts you. You will have no chance of recognising this person in real life if you ever have to meet.
  5. The fidget – this one can at least give rise to some sympathy. On a good day you might feel like stroking their arm and reassuring them that things will be OK. That this too shall pass as all previous pandemics have. You might fantasise about putting a big weighted blanket over the fidget’s shoulders while serving hot milk. Or you might just want to write “For f*** sake sit still!” in the chat.
  6. The daydreamer – it is very hard to know what to do with this one. Is it disrespect and a lack of care for what you have to say or is he/she thinking long and hard about your intelligent remark as they stare into the distance? You will never know, but you cannot stop wondering, resulting in a complete attention failure from your own side, making you hate this one for what it does to you, willingly or not.
  7. The slacker – this one is at least OK to dislike and that makes it easier to deal with than the daydreamer. This one really is respectless on purpose. No personal hygiene is practiced and he/she is happy to let the weekend go on until Tuesday evening and start again Wednesday midday. You know you are in a meeting with one if hair, any kind, fills the screen along with scruffy clothes and a huge veranda and/or sailing boat.
  8. The sloucher – this is a sad character, a broken consultant who cannot say no to all the demands for online meetings. Worn down by emails to tend to outside of office hours because those are filled with meetings with the entire dysfunctional family. The only thing that would help this lost soul is to get out, do a forest bath, run for miles, scream out loud, a gentle hug and a stiff drink.
  9. The close-up – this is a curious and frightening one because you cannot help but wonder if they will accidentally headbutt you next time you meet in real life. The close-up gets so close you back away from your screen. The face more than fills the frame and you would never have chosen such a close encounter, in fact it feels a bit like an online assault.
  10. The unicorn – this is a mythical creature. You have probably not met one and chances are you never will. This one still practices personal hygiene and respects other people. The unicorn has not inherited any of the dysfunctions the rest of the family suffers from, instead you are met with a smile (at eye-level) in a crispy shirt, with control of the agenda and intelligent contributions to it. The unicorn has found the Golden Ratio of screen-to-face proportions. I have met this enigmatic creature and a sense of peace occurred from within – it was love at first sight and I was spellbound. Little is known about the unicorn, but you will probably find one if you start sending unnecessary meeting invites just to hang out, online, voluntarily.

Ah, so over just a few months you have found the Onlines, your new dysfunctional family. They are a pain, they show up unannounced and they stay too long. They irritate you, but honestly, isn’t that partly because you’re related? You realise that you share both DNA and behaviours with them all and it is hardly you who are the unicorn, so you better learn to live with them – it will be very lonely if you don’t.