Zoom Dysmorphia follows people in the real world

Last summer, when clinics have started to reopen tentatively, dermatologist Shadi Kourosh has noticed a worrying trend: an increase in requests for appointments for appearance-related issues. “It seemed like at a time like this other issues would come to the fore, but a lot of people were really concerned that it felt like it looked a lot worse than usual,” she said.

Kourosh, who is an assistant professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School, quickly discovered that others in his field and related fields such as plastic surgery had noticed a similar phenomenon. And when she and her colleagues asked patients what motivated their decision to seek treatment, many cited video conferencing. The pandemic had catapulted them into a world of Zoom calls and team meetings, and staring at their own faces on a screen all day was wreaking havoc on their self-image.

In the age of Zoom, people became overly concerned about the sagging skin around the necks and jowls; with the size and shape of their nose; with the pallor of their skin. They wanted cosmetic procedures, ranging from Botox and fillers to facelifts and nose jobs. Kourosh and his colleagues interviewed doctors and surgeons, examining whether video conferencing during the pandemic was a potential contributor to bodily dysmorphic disorder. They called him “Zoom dysmorphia. “

Now, with the rise in vaccinations seemingly pushing the pandemic to recede, new research from Kourosh’s group at Harvard has revealed that Zoom’s dysmorphia is not going to go away. A survey of more than 7,000 people suggests that the mental scars from the coronavirus will stay with us for some time.

Even before Covid, plastic surgeons and dermatologists were seeing an increase in the number of patients presenting them with “unrealistic and unnatural” demands, says Kourosh. The term “Snapchat dysmorphism “ was coined in 2015 to describe the growing number of people who wanted to look like they had been subjected to a face modification filter in real life, all with big eyes and sparkling skin.

Before that, a patient could show up to a plastic surgeon’s office with photos of a celebrity they wanted to look like, taken from a magazine. Even before the rise of social media, psychologists found that people who looked at themselves in a mirror became more self-aware.

But Zoom’s dysmorphia is different. Unlike Snapchat, where people know they see themselves through a filter, video conferencing distorts our appearance in ways we can’t even realize, as Kourosh and his co-authors identified in their original post.

Front cameras distort your image like a “funny mirror,” she says: they make the nose look bigger and the eyes smaller. This effect is exacerbated by the proximity to the goal, which is usually closer to you than a person would ever be in an actual conversation. Looking at the camera of a smartphone or laptop is the least flattering angle.

We’re also used to seeing our own reflection when our faces are relaxed – the focused frown (or expression of boredom) you wear in a meeting potty Zoom with the image of yourself you have there. used to see in the mirror. “Changes in self-perception and anxiety as a result of constant videoconferencing can lead to unnecessary cosmetic procedures, particularly in young adults who have been more exposed to online platforms, including videoconferencing, social media and filters throughout the pandemic, ”writes Kourosh, Channi Silence and other colleagues.

The term “Zoom dysmorphia” was picked up by international media, and Kourosh was inundated with emails from friends and strangers with whom he resonated. In the new follow-up study to be published in the International Journal of Female Dermatology, the research group found that 71 percent of the 7,000 people surveyed were anxious or stressed about returning to their in-person activities, and nearly 64 percent had requested mental health support.

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