With the online world overtaking the real world during the pandemic, Label Volunteer, Rebecca Pearson, explores the phenomenon of ‘zoom dysmorphia’ and how it distorts our view of both life and self-image.
You get ready for work, study, school – but instead of leaving through your front door, you log onto Zoom. The little window of our videoed-self flatpacks our existence into a 2D reality. Yes, there are various advantages to a virtual day: less commuter travel, convenience, efficiency. But the implication of Covid-19, wherein ‘working from home’ has become entirely normal, has also come with other social and mental distortions.
Zoom dysmorphia is the latest techno-psychological phenomenon to have wandered with us into the real world. Whilst body dysmorphic disorder is a mental condition wherein a person spends time worrying about perceived flaws and how others view them, zoom dysmorphia involves a similar distortion of self-image but is centred around the face. Although not yet a formal diagnosis, zoom dysmorphia may cause a person severe distress before and during video calls, and may result in them monitoring and analysing their facial features or perceived flaws, thinking that others are analysing them too.
Part of the issue is that online video-call platforms do distort our facial features. We are squished to fit the little video box that sits in the corner of our screens, and forced face-to-face with our self-image for prolonged periods of time. For anyone who has a predisposition to feeling self-conscious, watched or spotlighted, the increased amount of time spent online is a self-confrontation which, without the pandemic, would not likely have happened.
Alongside the sensation of zoom dysmorphia has risen the engagement with plastic surgery procedures, with more people turning to cosmetic surgery to “fix” the flaws found on Zoom. Couple overexposure of the self with the pressure to have “bettered” oneself over Covid-19 lockdowns, and more people have felt that plastic surgery has become a necessity rather than a choice. Just as social media has seen a rise in the pressure of appearance, it is likely that Zoom has acted as a similar catalyst which has specifically honed in on facial features.
Whilst many people are used to having a plethora of online faces and feeling as if they look different in every photo, highly used platforms, like Zoom, make it harder to associate our Zoom-self with the person in the mirror. At the same time, it’s harder to disassociate from our virtual self now that we’ve become as equally reliant on the virtual world as the real one.