With schools across the country reckoning with COVID-19, student participation in online learning has been a mixed bag. What’s worse, students seem to be looking for clever ways to avoid attending online classes altogether. The latest comes from a teen on TikTok whose “Zoom hack” video is going viral — causing concern in some corners, and being adopted by employees and students in others.
“Here’s how to make it look like you’re paying attention to a meeting or class on Zoom when, in reality, you aren’t even behind the camera,” TikTok user Emily Gordon says in the viral clip. The elaborate process she describes involves filming yourself doing nothing for a few minutes, then using that footage as a virtual background on Zoom.
“The video will just play on and you will be on your phone or doing whatever you wanna do, and no one will know,” Gordon concludes in the video.
Since posting in August, the clip has racked up more than 8 million views, with some commenters hailing Gordon’s idea as genius.
“You really broke the system,” one commenter said, according to Yahoo.
“Okay, but does it work in Teams? Asking for a friend,” another said.
However, many users pointed out the idea’s flaws or derided it as irresponsible.
“It’s all fun until [the professor] asks you a question,” read one comment.
“People really put in all this effort to not do something instead of just doing what they gotta do,” another said.
In response to these comments, Gordon posted a follow-up video addressing the criticisms.
Reply to @lkidsinmybasment answering the most asked questions from my zoom video♬ original sound – em.g.502
“Basically, this wasn’t meant for, like, high school students in small classrooms where they’re supposed to respond. This is more for like big lectures or meetings where you are being forced to attend,” said Gordon, a college student herself. “Most of the time in a college lecture or a really big class, the teachers don’t ask questions.”
And if the professor does ask a question? “You can just play it off like it’s a technical difficulty,” she said.
However, Gordon also took the opportunity to urge students against using the hack irresponsibly.
“Obviously do the work. This is more if you’re uncomfortable to be seen all the time,” she said. “Maybe you also have other homework to do, you were eating food — there’s other reasons. It’s not just to not do the work, it’s so people can’t see you.”
This isn’t the first time TikTok users have come up with a way to play hooky from Zoom classes. Back in April, a clip from user @charlie.huynh2 went viral with the caption “How to get out of your zoom classes.” His idea was a bit simpler: change your Zoom name to “Reconnecting…” to make it look like you’re having connection issues.
With so many clever but concerning hacks emerging to help kids skip class, the best take might come from Gordon herself.
“Make good decisions,” she said in her follow-up post. “This is obviously an extreme, and kind of a joke.”