- Annmarie Throckmorton, M.A.
Oh dear, how to fix this?
About a year ago, when I first started zooming into online groups, I was dismayed at my face. For the first time in my life I could see quite clearly, in real time, every nuance of emotion flitting across it. I realized that my plain, pleasant, calm exterior was the sheerest of gauze veils, like a glint of light over a babbling brook of confused and often ignoble emotions. I had hoped that I was presenting as a paragon of patience, acceptance, even loving kindness. No, not so. I saw here a flicker of contempt on my impatient, thinned lips, and there was a disdainful flair of my leaping nostrils. And, those sneaky eyes, alas they were mine. Oh dear!
How to fix this? I have studied the art of being human for three-quarters of a century and this is the best that I am doing? Alas.
Contrariwise, I may not be the only one having difficulty managing the micro and macro expressions that leak from us. Take for example, a small meditation group that I recently abandoned after participating via Zoom once a week for over a year, to the best of my flawed ability. During that time I observed but I did not comment on the following behaviors which occurred each week at the very moment that I zoomed into the group session.
The group leader had the odd habit of swiping her hand under her nose the moment that she saw me zoom in, which seemed to say, "Oh, you get up my nose."
The number two of the group would slowly begin to rub the back of his neck, "What a pain in the neck."
The number three of the group would scowl and cast his eyes about as if looking for a way out, displaying the universal sign for "I do not like this."
The number four of the group kept her eyes firmly down with a sweet smile fixed upon her face, "See no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil."
The remaining dozen or so zoom participants seemed oblivious to any problem; and I felt that pretending that I was not perceiving these expressions was the best strategy for me too. I tried to emulate it, but I failed due to my suspicions, my hurt feelings, and my fear that the problem would escalate. I felt compelled to leave the meditation group. I could not figure out how to correct my own behavior, much less the behavior of those others.
So which came first, the chicken or the egg? Did they dislike me because of my micro-expressions which Zoom so clearly magnifies? Or was it the other way around, me making faces in response to persistent rejection? This was too complicated, the best I could do was to leave without a fuss. There will be other Zoom opportunities for me, hopefully I will do better next time.
animation and image by Annmarie Throckmorton, copyright 2023