M. Powers, M. Bohm, T. Johnson, C. Cemulini, K. Balmelli, E.L. Donovan

Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA

With the coronavirus pandemic, universities became reliant on videoconferencing technology such as Zoom to remain functional, including as use for virtual synchronous course instruction. With this increase in Zoom use, many individuals reported an associated fatigue that has become anecdotally known as “Zoom Fatigue”. PURPOSE: To compare prevalence of visual fatigue and computer vision syndrome (CVS) symptoms as perception of visual fatigue in response to virtual synchronous Zoom class compared to watching Netflix. We hypothesized that virtual synchronous Zoom class would induce objective and perceived visual fatigue to a greater degree compared to leisure screen time in the form of Netflix viewing. METHODS: Eight Gonzaga University students participated in an hour and 15 minute virtual synchronous Zoom session and a time matched Netflix viewing session. Before and after each trial, objective visual fatigue was measured using critical flicker frequency (CFF) (Hertz) and subjective perception of visual fatigue was determined using a validated CVS symptom survey (total score). Data were analyzed using repeated measures two-way ANOVA. RESULTS: CFF (pre-Zoom = 47.15 + 0.67, post-Zoom = 46.25 + 0.58, pre-Netflix = 47.69 + 0.75, Post Netflix = 46.50 + 0.66) decreased significantly (p < 0.05) in response to both virtual synchronous class and Netflix indicating visual fatigue. CVS (pre-Zoom = 1.86 + 0.63, post-Zoom = 11.71 + 2.15, pre-Netflix = 2.14 + 0.86, Post Netflix = 7.57 + 2.07) increased significantly in response to virtual synchronous class and Netflix indicating increased perception of visual fatigue. However, there were no differences between virtual synchronous class and Netflix. CONCLUSION: Our data indicate that screen time induces objective and perceived visual fatigue. However, contrary to our hypothesis there was no difference in objective measure or perception of visual fatigue in response to virtual synchronous class compared to watching Netflix. As such, visual fatigue associated with Zoom may be the result of accumulated time video conferencing and not a single session. In addition, Zoom fatigue may be related to cognitive fatigue rather than visual. Ongoing research in our group is determining if virtual synchronous Zoom class compared to Netflix affects ability to compete a cognitive task.

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