Recognizing Someone in Person vs. Zoom: Why It’s Not as Automatic as You Think

I recently had an interesting realization at a regional meetup for the Cayliens in the Western US. With about 50 of our 500 employees attending, I finally met some colleagues face-to-face for the first time. Despite seeing them numerous times on Zoom, the recognition wasn’t as instantaneous as expected. This got me curious about why this happens.

The Face-to-Face Connection

When we meet someone in person, our brains are in their element. We rely heavily on a specialized area called the fusiform face area (FFA) in the visual cortex. This part of our brain is designed to recognize faces, helping us quickly identify friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. The in-person experience is rich with visual and sensory cues that our brains process seamlessly.

Zooming into Virtual Reality

On the flip side, recognizing someone on Zoom is a different ballgame. The flat, two-dimensional screen lacks the depth and nuance of real-life interactions. Our brains must work harder to interpret facial cues, expressions, and body language. It’s like switching from auto-pilot to manual, and it’s no wonder the process feels more mentally taxing.

The Cognitive Load

Have you ever felt completely drained after a day of Zoom calls? That’s the cognitive load in action. Our brains are constantly processing fragmented visual and auditory information, trying to piece together a complete picture. On Zoom, we miss out on subtle signals like body language and spatial orientation, making recognition less intuitive and more effortful.

Why Isn’t It Automatic?

Our brains aren’t just visual processors; they’re social organs. They crave context, depth, and multi-sensory input. In person, we receive all these inputs seamlessly, but on Zoom, our brains are deprived of this richness. Different parts of our brain, such as the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in social interactions and decision-making, must compensate for the lack of sensory data.

Making Virtual Recognition Easier

So, how can we ease this process? Here are a few tips:

  1. Lighting Matters: Good lighting helps your brain pick up facial features more easily.
  2. Consistent Backgrounds: Familiar surroundings provide context and reduce cognitive load.
  3. Regular Breaks: Give your brain a chance to reset and process information.
  4. Engage Multiple Senses: Use gestures and clear, expressive speech to enhance communication.

The Caylent Experience

At Caylent, a fully remote company with no physical headquarters, we’ve all become pros at virtual interactions. However, this meetup highlighted the importance of face-to-face connections. Meeting colleagues in person after months (or years) of virtual interactions was both exciting and challenging. It reminded me that while our brains are adaptable, they still crave the depth of real-world interactions.

Recognizing someone on Zoom is like meeting an old friend through a window. The connection is there, but it’s not as immediate or rich as face-to-face. Understanding the brain’s role in this process can help us navigate our virtual world more effectively and maybe even cut ourselves some slack when we feel Zoom fatigue setting in.

Feel free to share your experiences and tips on navigating this virtual landscape. Until next time, stay connected and keep those brain cells firing!

Changing chapters

After a little more than two years, yesterday was my last day with Edify. God truly orchestrated the strange series of events that led me there and I am so thankful for how I was able to play a part in the growth and development of that organization. Even in two years, the addition of staff, of countries operated in, and programs offered was great to watch. I can also honestly say that I was part of a family and that I have made some lifelong friends as a result.

Tomorrow, I start my new chapter with ProSites as their IT Director. Like any other new job, it will be certainly a whirlwind of new faces, names, practices, and projects. In getting to know my new boss and some of the upcoming plans, I’m excited to dive in.

So, if yesterday was my last day with Edify and tomorrow is my first day with ProSites, then I guess that means today, technically, I’m unemployed. It’s kind of a strange feeling. I wonder what I can watch on NetFlix…

Remember your future self


At its most basic, productivity is all about getting as much done as possible in a given period of time. Improving your efficiency is certainly one way to accomplish that; completing a task in less time does let you move on to the next. The problem with that strategy is that you sacrifice the future for the benefits in the present. Whenever I find myself considering a shortcut that I know will have consequences later, I try to think of how I’ll feel and see if it’s still the right thing to do. I refer to it as remembering my future self. Continue reading

The Blessing and Curse of the Zeigarnik Effect

In the early 20th century, the psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik studied what became known as the Zeigarnik effect after her professor noticed that a waiter had better recollections of still unpaid orders than ones that were completed (Wikipedia). In these modern times, where considerably more tasks abound, it’s often referred to as ‘open loops’ or ‘dangling threads’ and everyone can relate to one degree or another.

Whether by nature or by practice, I am personally quite susceptible to the Zeigarnik effect. As an avid GTD‘er I try very hard to capture the various open loops as they come up so I can circle back and address them by providing an update or otherwise following up. That allows me to provide closure and move on to the next thing. Continue reading

A replacement for CrashPlan

Last month, I wrote how CrashPlan is discontinuing their home service and that I had to find a suitable alternative. Backup solutions aren’t the most thrilling kind of software and investigating and evaluating the different options can hardly be considered fun. The complicating fact is that I have an atypical arrangement, or I suppose you could call it a specific set of requirements. I have a server along with other computers at home and another server at my mother-in-law’s along with her computer. Since I’m a firm believer of the 3-2-1 backup rules, I wanted to make sure everything is suitably protected.

Continue reading

The Search Begins: A New Backup Solution

This past week, Code42 Software announced they are going to stop supporting their CrashPlan backup solution for personal or home use. That is unfortunate news since I’ve been a customer for over ten years and was quite satisfied and invested in their service. While they have every right to run their business as they choose (especially if the economics don’t work in the long term) the impact to a significant portion of their userbase is not one that will be easy for them to recover from.

My current subscription is only good for a few more months and I now must find an alternate solution that allows my data to be sufficiently protected in a way that is still practical and reasonably priced. So far, the two leading candidates are Arq by Haystack Software and Backblaze. Neither one is a direct replacement so the decision isn’t clear. There may also be other options that should be considered. It will likely come down to the tradeoffs that I’m willing to make. Do I not back up as many computers as I have? Do I no longer also utilize a local backup?

Another possibility is to engineer a bespoke solution by one method or another. That would probably cover my needs better, but would also likely require more upfront effort to implement and ongoing maintenance. Clearly, the classic “build vs. buy” decision isn’t just limited to the domain of business IT.

Peay It Forward

Ok, I admit that the title’s lame, but I thought it was fun. You’re here reading this so I suppose it’s not all bad…

As one progresses through life and their career, knowledge and experience naturally accumulate. As you get exposed to new things and tackle the novel or unexpected, you generally amass a significant catalog of skills, insights, and, hopefully, wisdom. Over time, you consciously (and subconsciously) incorporate those numerous learnings into your day-to-day playbook to make yourself more efficient or effective. It happens almost automatically because nobody wants to spend more time or effort on something if they don’t have to. Continue reading

Not just a team, but a family

Not surprisingly, in working for Edify I’ve learned that life in a non-profit requires being very thoughtful and judicious about how we use our resources and spend our money. Certainly, we could expand our manpower by hiring more staff or simply ‘throw money’ at every challenge that arises. That doesn’t work very well in the long run. In daily practice, the challenge is to find creative solutions or strategic trade-offs to keep our focus on our mission: To improve and expand sustainable Christ-centered education globally.

I’m happy to say that there is one thing, which comes at great expense, that is one of our wisest investments of our time and money: our annual team meeting. Each January, our (growing) team gathers to spend time together in fellowship, devotion, training, and sharing. In the past, the meetings have been in San Diego, but this year’s was our first in the field: Ghana.

When you think about all of the effort and expense that goes into flights, visas, lodging, food, and all the related logistics, it would be so easy to for our management to decide against it. Instead, the commitment to the time by our founders and senior management gets stronger each year.

I was fortunate enough to join Edify shortly before last year’s meeting so the one I’m just now returning from is my second. We now total 53 with over a quarter added in the past year alone. As I’m involved in getting each one set up and oriented, I have the benefit of being familiar with names and roles from the start. Hearing their voices on a weekly prayer call or other phone conferences only goes so far to really get to know people. Seeing them in person, sharing a meal, trading stories, is the only way to truly make a connection. That I did at every opportunity.

I can honestly say that my family has grown considerably since I joined Edify. It’s an honor and a pleasure to share my time and talents in service to them and our collective goals.

I have been blessed by the opportunity I’ve had. I cannot wait for us to be together again in 2018!