As millions of people around the world have taken to the Zoom video conferencing app to work and study from home amid the coronavirus pandemic, employees and students have found a creative way to trick their employers, teachers, into thinking they're paying attention even when they're not.
Zoom's attention tracking feature
For those who aren't aware, Zoom has an "attention tracking" feature, which, according to the application's website, places a clock next to the participant's name and alerts the host if participants do not have the active Zoom window in focus on their screen for more than 30 seconds. The feature can only be disabled if the chat administrator allows it.
To put things simply, your computer throws you under the bus when you're paying more attention to your social media feed than you are to a morning meeting or an online class.
Users are fooling teachers, employers with virtual backgrounds
Users have found a way around the video-calling platform's attention tracking capabilities with a fun feature called virtual background, which essentially allows participants to display an image or video clip as a background during a Zoom call. You can also upload your own media files as virtual backgrounds.
Teens attending school lectures from home were the first to use this feature to cheat the system by looping a video of them appearing to pay attention and using the clip as a virtual background. They've even made a video on TikTok showing them setting up a decoy of themselves sitting at their desks and looking at the computer screen.
Adults have taken notice too. A viral tweet demonstrates how easy it is to vanish from meetings by adding a custom still image or video to seem like you're present. Just use one of your images as the background and you're free to go make yourself a sandwich while your boss thinks you're still there paying attention.
It took a global pandemic for us to find out how many meetings really could and should have been emailed. Now, that we're all doing classes and meetings virtually, you may never have to sit through a boring presentation again.