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Is the Pandemic creating “Zoom Dysmorphia” or Bad Body Images?

Zoom has allowed life to go on in an ever-changing world, but may be affecting the way we see ourselves. Experts are realizing a surge in aesthetic patients citing their appearance on Zoom as a reason to seek non-surgical cosmetic treatments, particularly for acne and wrinkles. A recent analysis of Google search trends during the pandemic showed the terms “acne” and “wrinkles” are increasing in this newly virtual reality. They attributed part of this trend associated   with anxiety and depression, common psychological conditions during quarantine. We suspect the trend may also arise from people constantly seeing themselves on video and becoming more aware of their appearance.

Before Zoom took over as the metric used to value one's appearance, patients used selfies and an arsenal of photo editing apps to create filtered versions of themselves.  Dubbed “Snapchat dysmorphia,” the influx of patients hoping to look more like their edited selves has caused widespread concern for its potential to trigger body dysmorphic disorder. In 2019, 72% of American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery members reported seeing patients seeking cosmetic procedures so they could  improve their selfies. In addition, higher levels of engagement on social media have shown to correlate with increased body dissatisfaction. Unlike the still and filtered selfies of social media, Zoom displays an unedited version of oneself in motion, a self-depiction very few people are used to seeing on a daily basis. This may have drastic effects on body dissatisfaction and desire to seek cosmetic procedures.

So why are webcams so unsettling to users? During real-life conversations, we do not see our faces speaking and displaying emotions, and we certainly do not compare our faces side-by-side to others like we do on video calls. In addition, cameras can distort video quality and create an inaccurate representation of true appearance. One study found that a portrait taken from 12 inches away increases perceived nose size by 30% when compared with that taken at 5 feet.5 Webcams, inevitably recording at shorter focal lengths, tend to produce an overall more rounded face, wider set eyes, and broader nose.6 It is important for patients to recognize the limitations of webcams and understand that they are, at best, a flawed representation of reality.

Feel more confident during your video conferencing with a natural looking improvement to your appearance!  Schedule your complimentary consultation at Defy Nature in New London.

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