Do You Really Need to Shout on Your Video Call? An Investigation

"I went over to her room to tell her about how bad my last meeting was and she was like, ‘Yeah, I know. I hear it all. I hear everything you say.’"
Hannah Smothers
Brooklyn, US
April 24, 2020, 6:31pm
Is It Necessary to Shout, During Your Video Chat? An Investigation
Shutterstock/WAYHOME studio

“I have a yelling on calls addiction—all calls, but video makes it worse,” Connor Snyder, 27, a self-identified “call yeller,” told VICE. “One day me and the roommates were all talking, and it came up that if I’m on a call, you can hear it everywhere in the house.”

Like Synder, Sebastian Meza, 28, was also unaware of his shouting habit until someone else brought it to his attention. “My sister LITERALLY just told me this yesterday, and I have like five Zoom meetings a DAY,” Meza said. “I went over to her room to tell her about how bad my last meeting was and she was like, ‘Yeah, I know. I hear it all. I hear everything you say.’ Also, my coworkers always think I’m mad. I guess it’s the yelling.”


The question must be asked: Is this necessary?

Our current reality has everyone crammed within close quarters, where many are learning new things about their partners and roommates, and perhaps even themselves. One of those new things is that some people absolutely fucking scream at their computers or phones during video calls, all the time, every time, despite there being no clear reason to do so.

None of the call-yellers VICE spoke to could provide a logical explanation for feeling compelled to shout at their friends and colleagues over video chat. At least one person seems plagued by this trait.

“I was literally just asking myself last night, Why do I shout in video calls?"

“I was literally just asking myself last night, Why do I shout in video calls?” Ryan Quinn, 24, told VICE. “I think it’s because the norm is holding the phone up against your ear for normal calls, but video calls are a bit further away from your face, so shouting seems to feel like the normal thing to do.” Quinn continued that he takes most of his calls in the garden, and was only recently alerted to his shouting by the neighbor, who popped his head over the wall and told Quinn, “You are very loud.”

Most built-in microphones aren’t especially high-quality, but the mic in MacBooks is able to pick up on ambient sounds (like, say, a roommate clanging dishes in the next room, or a fart that felt like a little puff but was actually quite loud). If a person is following Mayo Clinic’s guidelines for office ergonomics, the computer and, therefore, the microphone would be only an arm’s length away; by no means a distance that mandates vocal projection.

But there does seem to be, perhaps, a software explanation for the yelling. According to multiple support questions regarding Google Hangouts, it seems as though that particular platform controls mic input volume to regulate sound across a call. In the case of a loud person, the auto-regulation would eventually tone them down, but probably not before others react quickly by turning down their own output volume. This would make normal-voiced people too quiet, who might be asked to then speak up. Soon, you have a call full of several people screaming their heads off. The Verge also recently advised that shouting on Zoom calls is a bad idea, because of the domino effect that one yeller may have on an entire group of people, who all now have to shout to be heard over the original loud talker.

Alec Lafavore, 26, offered perhaps the most acceptable reason, though it’s more pathological than it is logical. “I would say I do make an effort to talk more quietly, but as soon as I stop doing it consciously, I get loud again,” Lafavore said. “I think I’m talking loudly because I feel the need to compensate for not being with them physically. There’s a sense of detachment when you’re hanging out virtually. I think I’m probably loud to try and make up for that fact, as if by yelling, I can shorten that distance.”

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