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Me in reality … the elephant in the Zoom

Illustration: John Shakespeare

Illustration: John Shakespeare Credit:


Thanks for such an entertainingly self-deprecating email to begin the year. I thought it might have peaked at “goblin” but “the great unveiling” was an unexpected raspberry on top of the cherry.

I know there’s at least a semi-serious element to your question and before I pass on the expert advice of psychologist Dr Linda Dalton, I should say congratulations for curating your self-exhibition with such dedication for almost a year.

I remember taking the same amount of trouble as you for the first two or three video calls before realising that no matter what I did, I looked like a jowelly slob bedraggled by the muddy waters of life. I stopped the charade, and after that, colleagues and clients saw me in baseball hats and jogging tops and generally looking about as professional as one of those emails you get from telling you “You’re account have been temporally suspensed.”

But, as Dr Dalton reminds us, not everyone will have been as careless and slovenly as me. In fact, she says it’s important to keep in mind before you meet your new-old colleagues that there will almost certainly have been “doctoring on the other side as well”.

“The playing field looks pretty even to me and all parties have an equal chance of finding out that champion pet dog or the harbour views from their bedroom don’t really exist.

“I recently met someone who acknowledged pretty quickly that they had street-viewed my address.”

This may seem like a very 2020-21 problem, but Dr Dalton suspects “cyber colleagues are here to stay”. The question of how to present yourself online knowing that you will very likely meet them in person down the track may be one we’re asking long into the future.

It’s helpful, then, that Dr Dalton’s advice is both straightforward and ageless: “Have fun and keep the lies little.”

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