Do we need a new type of background check?
By Bill
on October 30, 2020

It’s been said that there’s a little voyeur in all of us. And when one of the only available windows to the outside world is your TV or computer screen, that’s even more true. Like you, I’ve changed how I do business, connect with family and harass my friends (trust me, they have it coming.)

All through the magic of video conferencing!

Zoom. Meetup. Call it what you will but it’s as close to reaching out and touching someone as you can get these days. And it’s not just with coworkers, family and friends, we’re also being invited into people’s homes from all over the world while watching TV interviews and news programs. If you’re at all like me, I always pay attention to what these folks are saying…at first. But then my mind starts to wander away from the conversation and I begin scanning the room behind them in their little video conference picture frames looking for clues to who they really are and how they really live.

Thoughts like, “Of all the rooms in your house that you could choose to share with the world, you chose that one?” keep popping into my head. Or, “You make umpteen millions of dollars a year and the furniture in your home looks like it all came with Swedish instructions and an allen wrench.” Not cute.

Last week I watched a famous doctor being interviewed on a prime time news show. I know that what he’s saying could literally mean the difference between life and death, but I couldn’t help but focus on the shelves behind him, squinting to see if I could find any books that I’ve also read. (That’d be a big, fat no.) And then there’s the political pundit who’s off white, windowless room reminds me more of a cell in a made for TV prison flick than a multi-million dollar home in the Hamptons. Come on, we deserve better than that. If you want me to watch or let’s be honest, pay attention, make it worth my while.

One of my coworkers positioned her video conference window at her desk at home. Behind her and just off to the side, I focused on her vacuum cleaner. It was leaned up against the wall where it stayed for days. And days. Video conference after video conference. An obsession was born. Before long we’d named it Vicky Vacuum(I’ve always been a sucker for alliteration) but I couldn’t help but wonder about my coworker’s housekeeping skills since Vicky never moved. Then one day, Vicky vanished. We were tartly informed that Vicky had become too much of a distraction and we all had better things to talk about. I moped for the rest of the day.

But the biggest buzz kill of all has to be the dreaded background filter. Suddenly all my voyeuristic needs are crushed and there’s nothing left to do but…actually pay attention and what fun is that? I was doing a virtual seder a few weeks ago with some friends and one of the guests showed up on screen looking like he was in the middle of a grand ballroom in Versailles or one of the royal residences in St. Petersburg. I must admit that I’ve never seen the inside of his abode, but I’d bet cash money that the closest he’s ever gotten to a palace is the drive thru at White Castle on a Saturday night.

You learn a lot about people by what they share with you and what they do not. So what background do I have behind me? Well, you’ll just have to conference me in to find out. I, for one, could use the company.

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