There are plenty of places you can use live video to chat with your friends, family, and anyone else online. But despite the fact that video chatting has been around for a long time, and is now a high-tech, superior form of communication, some people still need convincing. If that sounds like you (or a friend of yours), we’re here to bust some of the myths you might have heard about video chat.
You Look Fine (You Sound Fine, Too)
Yes, you probably shouldn’t take a business video call without a shirt on. Yes, you might want to pick up your room a little bit if you’re trying to flirt with a new fling. But it’s definitely not as bad as you think.
Use common sense and, when chatting outside a business setting, don’t worry about people judging you for wearing a fluffy panda onesie if it makes you comfortable and happy. Plus, Paltalk offers video filters if you’re ever feeling a little drab — it happens. When chatting in a business setting, relax and dress as you normally would at your office. All you need to do is find a quiet room and make sure your head and shoulders are visible from around eye level in camera view. You’re probably not a famous YouTuber, so don’t worry about things like perfect hair or a beautiful background. Just look clean and confident.
What’s that you say? Your face still looks wrong and your voice sounds weird on video? You can learn all about how mirrors, asymmetry, and confirmation bias mess up our faces for us in this article from Wistia, but what it comes down to is this: your face looks on video the way that everyone else sees it. It’s just your face, and the more you look at it on video, the less odd it will seem to you. As for your voice, you shouldn’t hear it in video chat anyway, but if by some chance you do, you’re probably battling both feedback distortion and the natural difference between what you and other people hear when you speak. Again, it’s a matter of letting yourself get used to the difference (a small helping of “idc” can help, too).
It’s Not All Scandalous… or Exhibitionist
Not all video chat is scandalous. If you’ve ever used FaceTime to chat with your family, you know that. One to one video, especially with someone you know, is usually tame — as long as you want it to be. It’s the public video chat forums where things can get a little dicey.
We’re not here to shame anybody for having a good time with other consenting adults. If adult content is your jam, there are plenty of places around the web you can enjoy yourself with the help of video chat.
However, it’s important not to rope in unwilling participants. We don’t need to spell out for you what can happen to the unsuspecting on un- or sub-moderated video chat sites (we all lived through the rise and some-might-say-fall of Chatroulette and Omegle), and respect for others’ boundaries and rules is crucial to a healthy video chat experience. That’s where moderation comes in. Sites like Paltalk utilize both administrators and the community at large to help make sure group video chat stays within the bounds predetermined propriety (whether that’s G or Adult). Service like Skype or FaceTime don’t face these challenges as often, but you don’t meet new friends with them either.
Aside from salacious, some people find video chat exhibitionist even if nothing untoward is happening. While many people do enjoy video chat because they can ‘perform’ a role (whether explicitly performative or not), it’s far from the only reason people like video chat, or even prefer it to other methods of communication. It’s not exhibitionist to want to have the most nuanced conversation possible from the comfort of your own home, and being able to see a stranger’s face —the way her eyes move or her brow furrows— from halfway around the world is something offered nowhere else.
Propriety Is What You Make It: Hello or Ahoy?
The final myth is really a subset of myths we’re calling “social awkwardness issues”. We’ll admit that video chat’s proliferation, especially into daily life, is fairly new; there are people in the world who have probably never used video chat, and some who never will. But for those of us of a certain age and a certain technological persuasion, there’s really nothing holding us back from video chat except ourselves.
We’ve already covered the awkwardness of seeing and hearing yourself from an external point of view — the physical discomforts — but some people also stress over social discomfort. Most stem from the fact that video chat is new, and the social guidelines and niceties we have for other technologies, especially other forms of communication, haven’t been codified or standardized yet.
This problem isn’t new, though. When the telephone was first developed, the two forerunning inventors couldn’t even agree on a greeting to initiate a conversation. Thomas Edison championed “Hello.” Alexander Graham Bell insisted on “Ahoy.” Edison may have won out, but now that the whole world uses telephones, there’s an encouraging amount of variation out there. The point is, every new technology has its own set of rules, and it’s up to the users to validate those rules. Video chat’s rules are still in flux. Don’t take that as a problem. See it as the freedom to make your own rules.
So where do you look when you’re chatting? How do you say goodbye or exit gracefully? What happens if audio drops in the middle of a presentation? Stay calm, do what feels right, and don’t forget to laugh a little. It’s not necessary to impress people every time you video chat. Just be yourself and have fun.
We hope this has helped you look at video chatting in a new light and assuaged some of your fears about starting out. Have more questions about how video chat can benefit you? Visit us at support.paltalk.com.