The casual culture of Zoom classes

The online format has given students the opportunity to keep it casual during class.

Stuck in online classes, students and instructors are on the same page: they woke up like this.

With many of UF’s classes being held through Zoom this semester, Zoomers are not afforded the same luxury of in-person interaction and self-expression. To get around this, they are developing a culture of their own — one with an absence of makeup and an abundance of memes.

The online format has given students the opportunity to keep it casual. Instead of dressing up for classes, Gina Genova said she wears pajamas without the pressure of having to go out.

The 18-year-old UF psychology and criminology sophomore said the lack of traditional structure has also granted people a degree of anonymity, increasing their confidence and making them more likely to goof off by changing their backgrounds and sending messages.

“What I’ve noticed is just a lot of memes and a lot of people saying funny things that I don’t think they would have the guts to say in class,” she said. “The vibe of a Zoom class is more laid back.”

As a spectator, Genova said she usually can’t identify the people pulling jokes because they often do not have their cameras on. She said she enjoys the shenanigans as long as they are not too disruptive.

“When it’s your fourth class of the day and you’ve just been staring at a computer, it’s nice to see someone do something funny,” she said. 

Zoom is treating students to more than just comedy. Isaac Grossman, a 19-year-old UF telecommunications production sophomore, was surprised to find one of his classmates “shredding” on guitar while scrolling through the call participants. 

The guitarist was muted, but Grossman said he was impressed by the complicated technique his classmate used to strum the fretboard — he doesn’t think the professor or many other students noticed. 

Grossman stands out himself, treating his schoolwork as if it is a nine-to-five job by getting fully dressed and working out before logging on to stay focused, he said.

“One of the best parts of college for anyone is just making new friends and meeting new people all the time,” Grossman said. “You can’t really do that through Zoom.”

As for his professors, Grossman has been satisfied and understands those of them having trouble — his mother is a teacher adjusting to the online environment. He said instructors who do not own all the best technology might have difficulty adjusting.

“It’s really not anyone’s fault,” he said.

Brandon Murakami, a 30-year-old UF graduate student, teaches Introduction to Literature and taught Anime and Manga Adaptations of Western Literature last Spring. He said he thinks Zoom is terrible overall but that it has helped to see his students stay motivated.

When UF began its shift online, Murakami hosted Zoom sessions specifically for students to socialize and was met with a grateful response.

“It was a measure of still having that sense of community and connection,” he said.

Murakami has found creative ways to level with his students like joining them in an effort to find the silliest background or letting his cat, Jeremy, jump onto his desk for attention. He said these kinds of distractions are a positive way for students to stay engaged.

His relaxed attitude carries over into his teaching style as well. Murakami usually teaches on Zoom in a tank top to stay comfortable. He said many students do not realize how taxing having to be on Zoom at all times is for instructors.

“We may be ‘educators’ or ‘teachers’ but on our side too, we’re still learning how to do things as good as we could have done in person,” he said.

Professors and students realize how different Zoom classes are and most are trying to accommodate students as much as possible, Murakami said. His advice for students is to use the resources they have access to, like office hours or the UF Counseling and Wellness Center. 

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” he said.