Some thoughts, and a practice, around eye contact
Our interacting primarily online for years has had many negative effects, but one that I found people rarely appreciate – and in my opinion needs to be actively countered – is what it’s done to eye contact. Zoom culture has made eye contact more rare and uncomfortable – and even as we’re coming together more, that lingering effect is hurting our ability to connect deeply.
When we’re on zoom, we’re looking at the faces of other people (hopefully! Tip: hide self view), but when we look at our screen we look away from our webcam. So even when we’re looking directly into someone’s eyes, we don’t feel eye contact because they’re looking slightly askance.
If that doesn’t make sense, definitely check it out next time you’re on a zoom call – and/or take a look at the first photo of me, self view in normal zoom interaction. The second photo of me is me looking directly into my webcam. Obviously doing that means not looking at anyone, and interestingly, people find it creepy.
Yes, the sensation of someone making direct eye contact: creepy. 🙂
But eye contact is incredibly powerful, even crucial, to connection with others. It helps us understand and feel one another, helps us form bonds. And yet we’ve grown increasingly accustomed to interacting without eye contact – and I’ve found that has invaded our in-person interactions.
Because yeah, eye contact can be intense and uncomfortable on its own, let alone when we’re out of practice.
Because real connection is vulnerable. Real connection is scary.
So try to catch yourself – just become aware of when you’re making eye contact with people in front of you, and when you’re not.
And here’s a practice I like, of eye gazing:
Find a partner (loved one, intimate, anyone down!); set a timer (maybe a minute to start?); and just stare into one another’s eyes until the timer goes off. You can blink, but try not to
The practice is also a simple way to witness the energy of eye contact. It’s powerful, intense. A lot might come up.
Let me know how it goes (and how long you’re able to go for!)