Experts are worried that spending too much time staring at ourselves in “funhouse mirror” sizes on video-conferencing calls will begin to distort our self images.
Dermatologist and Harvard medical School professor Dr. Shadi Kourosh is concerned about the effects of staring at ourselves for hours at a time during Zoom video conference calls. Dr. Kourosh believes that after a while, prolonged exposure to our own image on a computer screen could result in “Zoom dysmorphia,” a term coined by Dr. Kourosh herself.
“I was concerned that the time spent on these cameras was negatively affecting people’s perceptions of their appearance. I compare the video conference via phone camera to a funhouse mirror because people are not looking at a true reflection of themselves.”
Kourosh explained how she’s noticed a major increase in the amount of appointment requests for appearance related issues throughout the pandemic. “They don’t realize the computer screen is a distorted mirror. Factors such as the angle and how close we are to the camera mask how we really look,” she explained.
“At the start of the pandemic, people were clamoring to get into cosmetic surgeries during a time when people were being encouraged to not take any unnecessary medical risks. The preoccupation with how people felt they looked was unusual.”
Nose jobs and forehead smoothing have been the top two requests Kourosh has been receiving throughout the pandemic. She began to wonder why so many individuals were concerned about changing their appearance during a global health crisis, however, when we think about the amount of transitions humanity has endured within the past two years, it makes sense.
“The more I looked into it the more I wondered in what ways these surgery requests could be connected to time spent video conferencing. People were complaining about sagging skin in the lower face and neck. We wondered if that was because people were holding their smartphones at odd angles when they were looking down,” she says.
One study showed that in March of this year, British plastic surgeons saw a 70% increase in the amount of consultations they were booking; mainly for facial procedures.
“When you take a photograph at close range you are more at danger of distorting the image. With a front-facing camera, we found that image distortion is worse the closer we are and we tend to take selfies and sit at our laptops at close range.”
Snapchat dysmorphia has existed since 2015, and refers to the numerous selfie filters on Snapchat that mimic common plastic surgery procedures like filler, botox, and face lifts. Studies have shown that these filters have led to a rise in botox usage, especially among young people. .
Zoom dysmorphia works differently than Snapchat, according to Kourosh, who explained “with snapchat dysmorphia, patients would come in to the see the cosmetic consultant with a photo of themselves that would be heavily filtered, yet there’s an awareness on the patient’s behalf that there’s some dysmorphia going on. But with Zoom dysmorphia it’s unconscious. People don’t know about the distortion that is happening with their cameras.”
“Lockdown created a perfect storm of self-image issues. As well as looking at themselves for video-conferencing calls, people were living in isolation, spending their spare time looking at heavily distorted images of other people on social media. I believe it’s a mental health issue.”
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