Use of video chat services like FaceTime, Houseparty, Skype, Teams, and Zoom have experienced an unprecedented increase in usage in recent months. In December 2019, Zoom, for example, boasted a healthy 10 million daily meeting participants. Compare that figure with the whopping 200 million daily meeting participants in March 2020.
But even though you are behind a screen doesn't mean your body language no longer matters. If anyone on the other end ever has asked "What are you looking at?" it could be a clue that you've lost focus.
In the article "Effect of Videoconferencing Environments on Perception of Communication," Petr Slovák introduces the term gaze awareness: when those communicating are well aware of another individual's gaze direction.
Slovák points out that a great amount of information is passed through gaze and facial expressions during a communication. During face-to-face encounters, for example, eye contact is of paramount importance. Similarly, daydreaming, staring in the distance, scrolling on your phone, or similar behaviors during a virtual meeting may signal disinterest or lack of attention, which is considered inappropriate for professional interactions. For personal video chats, the rules are much more relaxed, but if you're aiming for professional conduct, it's important to keep your gaze in check.