The Zoom boom: how video-calling became a blessing – and a curse

Just before lockdown, 29-year-old Ala Uddin became ill with coronavirus-related symptoms and had to self-isolate in his London flat. “For 23 days I was relying on video calls,” he says. “I hardly used them before, but now it was the only way I could see anyone and communicate with my housemate, even though we were living in rooms next to each other.” Uddin was also regularly video-calling his parents and siblings in York, as well as family members in Bangladesh, all of whom were checking in to make sure he was coping. “Without video calls I don’t know how I could have got through that time,” he says.

Since the pandemic hit, Zoom, FaceTime, Houseparty, Microsoft Teams and all manner of other video-calling apps have become so engrained in our lives. As one of the only safe ways to communicate, it’s hard to imagine living without them. None of these have taken off quite like Zoom. At the end of December, the app reported a maximum of 10 million daily users. By March, 200 million people were on it each day to work, socialise, view lessons and lectures, sing in choirs, attend church, birthday parties and weddings, meet new babies, say final words to dying family members and observe Ramadan and Easter. So embedded are these apps in all parts of life now that when Zoom went down last weekend, it made headlines around the world and even halted the Downing Street press conference.

Read the feature in the Guardian.

[This piece was published on 21/05/20]