The virtual background problem

I’m fascinated by the number of people using virtual backgrounds at a time when virtual meetings are the norm.

Not because I don’t like them – it’s clever technology, and a boon when the place where youre conferencing from is not somewhere you want people to see.

However, that temptation poses an interesting question. Why not?

It is, after all, what it is. Reality. If I’ve got children running round, or my place is a mess, those are the conditions in which I’m making the call, and a virtual presence of being on a beach somewhere isn’t going to make any difference to how I feel, or fool the others on the call.

Back in 1979, when Akio Morita released the first Sony Walkman, it revealed very different attitudes to its use. The Japanese valued it because it stopped them intrudijng on other people’s space. In the West, we used to it keep the outside world, well, outside.

What I suspect we are doing is similar to what we already do in face to face meetings. We turn up in disguise. Whether it’s the flash car, or the flash watch, or the expensive designer clothes, it’s still a virtual background, not who we really are.

Which seems a shame, because we are enough as we are. People value us more when we turn up authentically, warts and all, with a clear intent to contribute and help. Turning up just to give our ego an outing does nothing for anybody in the meeting.

If we are to learn one thing from this crisis, as we have adapted to virtual working, maybe it’s to turn up as who we are. That’s who those around us need.

Be yourself. Everybody else is taken

Oscar Wilde.

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