Donning a Digital Disguise

I list ways of counteracting the mandatory camera rule.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

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By Ismath Maksura

Remote instruction is still in its beginning stages, and the bad news has already started to roll in. Unfortunately for introverts and insecure people alike (criteria for which all sane people qualify), students’ cameras must be on in all live meetings. While this rule’s goal is to eliminate ghosts from our online classes, I believe that it is an unwarranted invasion of privacy. If I cannot hide from the government or corporations, I at least reserve the right to shield my hideous dwelling and my homely face from the unwanted eyes of my peers. As such, here are multiple techniques to subvert the camera order; slackers be damned.

Content With Mediocrity

Sometimes the most obvious choice is the best. Simply leave your camera off in class and avoid attracting attention to yourself whenever you can. Many teachers only care about seeing the faces of their students to feel less lonely or because the concept of teaching a faceless mass is too abstract for their old-school minds. Thus, an *almost* full class of students’ faces is good enough, and the few without can get by without it. The issue with this stratagem is that you’re likely to attract shameless copycats, gradually increasing the number of anonymous students in the room and leading to a teacher’s callout. This, however, can be sidestepped…

Lying Bastard

Your teachers don’t know you. Probably. They don’t know your home situation, and they certainly aren’t aware of your gaming setup. If you wear a grey screen and name tag to class, just be prepared with a phony alibi. When the inevitable prod arrives, dispense an excuse akin to these: “My camera is broken,” “My laptop doesn’t have a camera,” “My Google Meet/Zoom is glitched,” etc.

Fight the Power!

This is the most extreme route you could possibly take. Show up to your meeting with your image off, and call attention to yourself. Frequently raise your hand and use your mic while you can, making sure not to blend in with the rest of the class. Then, once they ask you to join your visible peers, refuse. Do not lie, like in the previous method. Instead, start an argument. Tell them it is an invasion of your privacy and that you are furious that this institution would ask you to show your face. You could also state that you never agreed to be recorded, as many teachers tape their sessions. You might even claim that your rights as an American citizen are being infringed (perhaps your Third Amendment rights, as officials are virtually entering your home). I’m not going to lie, you’d need to be the star of the debate team to pull this off. There is a very real possibility that they will shut you down, invoke higher school command, and/or personally punish you by docking your grade. Do you have what it takes to stand up to oppression and emerge a hero?

Witness Protection Program

Sometimes leaving your camera off is too brash. So the following routes, including this one, are more covert. For this plan, you’ll want to set up in front of a window or a lightbulb. Unless you have a worryingly high-quality webcam, your whole face and upper body will be wrapped in an inky silhouette. This is also a tried-and-true method, for I found it did not justify a teacher’s proclamation nine out of 10 times. The tradeoff here is that it does not fully obscure your complexion, so if you are especially disfigured, it may not be the right fit for you.

Chuck Close

This is a more experimental technique that works somewhat counterintuitively. Once you enter a class, you’ll want to sit as close to the camera as humanly possible. Fill your personal Zoom panel to the absolute brim with your face, making sure every individual pore is visible. This is a surefire way to make everybody in the call uncomfortable and will more likely than not get the instructor’s attention. Then, once they reprimand you, assume a much more disguised position in your room. They’ll be so glad their view has improved that they won’t complain. Even if they never complain and you remain up close, you’re still protesting the rules loud and clear. This works particularly well in conjunction with others, and a phone camera is optimal.


This may be the most viable solution to the problem so far, but it can be difficult to set up if you aren’t at least a little tech-savvy. You can sneakily lower your laptop/PC’s camera resolution by navigating through the settings on your desktop. This will end up with you showing up to class shrouded in a fog of pixels. If you have a newish computer, you may need to take additional steps to ruin your image. For better results, smudge the camera with one of your greasy fingers, or enlist the help of a younger relative. If this is still not enough, you can place successive layers of clear scotch tape over it. This approach is extra convincing, as a superior is unlikely to tell you to get a better camera and cannot expect you to get one either way.

I Never Really Was on Your Side

This last option is really more of an elaborate prank than anything. Start by creating another Zoom/Google Meet account under a specific teacher's name. Then, copy their profile picture. If you show up to one of their live sessions, they'll be absolutely convinced it's a bug on their end. In fact, a glitch like this actually exists on Zoom, which I have seen for myself, so they won't second guess it. You could remain silent and keep the video off, which is more accurate to the real bug, or you could mirror their video and audio, giving the illusion that they're broadcasting twice. Making this work from a technological standpoint would be very difficult, but it is certainly not impossible. However, this perfect anonymity does come at the cost of severe impracticality. You will be marked absent from the class and will be excluded from all group activities, as "you" aren't there. You may not be allowed into the meeting in the first place if the teacher just leaves you in the waiting room. The teacher might just kick you from the room. If your tutor is brilliant and manages to see through this flawless disguise, the crime would carry a severe penalty. However, if you expend loads of effort and beat all the odds necessary to exit this operation victorious, you will surely emerge a legend.

In conclusion, all authority must be questioned. Being an American, by definition, means overthrowing tyranny, whether that takes the form of taxation without representation or unwanted exposure of your ugly face. It is our duty to uphold the pristine beliefs of our Founding Fathers, and sometimes that requires making a huge nuisance of ourselves. I trust you will all join me in fighting the good fight and prove once again that Stuyvesant’s student population can stand up for themselves. Thank you so much for not only reading my article but also for following its guidelines and spreading the word to everyone you know. I wish you all the best in this noble undertaking. (And please, please let me know if you succeed with either the third or seventh method.)