BOTHELL — Hannah Patten had to defend her master’s degree thesis.
But first she had to clean her room.
What’s up with that?
With her university closed due to the coronavirus, Patten did her final presentation via Zoom.
After three years of study and a two-hour Zoom meeting in her bedroom office last week, Patten, 27, earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in digital arts.
Academics and athletics, dating and drinking — about everything is on Zoom these days. It’s even used by UFO hunters.
The videoconferencing app Zoom has gone from the boardroom to living rooms and bedrooms, even the bathroom.
Take it anywhere. Just remember to shut off the webcam and mic … or it can turn into a candid camera.
Zoom puts us on-screen in unscripted splendor. Or blunder.
We not only have to worry about our appearance, we have to fret over how our homes appear as backdrops.
You think people are looking at your crow’s feet? Think again.
They are scrutinizing your bookshelf of trashy reads and that pile of dirty clothes in the corner.
Zoom has made it possible for life to continue with some semblance of the way it was, back in February 2020. Pretty much anyone can master becoming a square on a screen like that of “The Brady Bunch.”
Pre-COVID there were about 10 million Zoom users. By April, some 300 million were Zooming.
There are Zoom classrooms. Happy hours. Game nights. Concerts. Comedy shows. Worship. Weddings. Funerals. Zoom Zumba.
Meditation. Recreation. About the only thing you can’t do is procreation.
Zoom has become a first-date platform for millennials. If you don’t hit it off, click it off.
It’s also a trendy last date, known as “zumping,” getting dumped on Zoom.
While Zoom provides interaction, it’s also harder to read social cues on a screen than in person.
Patten had prepared for a face to face challenge with her professors at DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond. She even made special comic books as a handout to go with her “Grl Pwr” thesis.
“The pandemic hit and I’m stuck in my room and they told me I have to do a Zoom call. And I have to clean up because everyone is going to see where I live,” Patten said.
Her thesis centered on 3D characters based on 20 women she interviewed to use as inspiration for a game.
“Women are just starting to break into games,” said Patten, a former high school teacher. “It was an all-male club. It’s very much, here’s a male hero with a gun and all the girls are sexy, and that helps the male fantasy.”
Patten was concerned about sabotage by internet trolls on Zoom. During a thesis practice session she discovered that the only heckler was her hissy cat. The cat didn’t get an invite for the real thing.
Cats and Zoom don’t always mix.
A planning commissioner in California resigned after throwing a cat during a Zoom meeting between city officials. He was also drinking.
Brittney Baldwin Rourke uses Zoom to get the dirt.
From her garden, that is. “I have wanted to teach gardening classes for a couple years. It took a pandemic to get me to act,” Rourke said.
Her son Reece uses Zoom to meet with his first-grade teacher and classmates at Lowell Elementary in Everett. Younger son Bryan, who starts kindergarten in the fall, saddles right up and participates. They made him an honorary member of the class.
Lynn Hagerman, a Seattle leadership and executive coach, is a Zoom pioneer since shortly after its inception in 2011.
“When I first started using it, unless somebody was doing work remotely they didn’t know what Zoom was,” Hagerman said.
A share of Zoom was $62 on its first day of public trading in April 2019 and ended the year at about $68. It was going for $165 on Monday.
Hagerman is using Zoom as the virtual venue for a retirement party this weekend for her husband, Jim. She shipped cupcakes and champagne to guests.
In Edmonds, Michael W. Hall, founder of the UFOiTeam in 2017, holds weekly Zoom sessions for his paranormal investigators to share their sightings and abductions. They initially met at a Denny’s but turned to video chat long before the virus invaded Earth.
They Zoom at 6 p.m. Mondays. “For anyone to join us around the world. It’s a blast,” Hall said. “But, I still miss Denny’s.”
(We all do, Michael. But did you know you can get a Grand Slam curbside pickup of 8 buttermilk pancakes, 8 scrambled eggs, 4 bacon strips, 4 sausage links and hash browns for $33.48? Slam it up with 8 slices of white toast for $4.49 more.)
For Jill Sundin, Zoom is a way to connect with the “Kirkland girls” she has been networking and drinking with since 2009. About half have since moved to five other states.
Sundin, a Frontier Communications engineer, started a weekly 5 p.m. Zoom happy hour from her Bothell home after the COVID-19 outbreak.
“In this isolation that we are all going through, we know we are not alone in this crazy time in our life,” Sundin said.
Sipping wine, martinis and peanut butter whiskey, they talk about the weather — snow in Vermont, swimming pools in Arizona. The chat often circles back to coronavirus topics: Haircuts. Husbands. How everybody’s doing.
“We support each other, share stories and memories. We can be silly, we laugh and sometimes cry,” Sundin said. “I leave the meeting with a full heart, knowing that maybe, just for an hour or so, we were together and we were not alone.”