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Zooming in on the details - how Zoom is affecting body image

Safiya Mehta-Woledge
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Zoom call  Azriel Taylor

Is staring at our own reflections doing more damage than we realise?

Zoom dysphoria, a term coined by dermatologist and Harvard professor, Dr Shadi Kourosh, refers to the effects of staring at ourselves through a screen. 

Zoom is the new normal when it comes to our day to day lives during Covid, but Kourosh's research shares that this could have a severe impact on our self-worth. 

She compares Zoom to a 'funhouse mirror'; saying it is not an accurate representation of how we look and can distort our features dependant on the surroundings, the angle, or how close we are to the camera. 

Avid Zoom users say that when on these calls, a lot of their time is spent staring at themselves and studying their own appearance. 

They say they want to make sure they look okay, and then often become fixated on checking their appearance throughout the Zoom. 

Eating Disorder clinician Emma Thomas says constantly analysing how we look can be really damaging. 

"Prior to Covid lockdowns and isolations, body checking was already a big issue."

This is when one stares at themselves in the mirror, judging how they look and picking at insecurities. 

And now this habit can become routine for many people who are regularly using Zoom. 

"I do think staring at yourself all day is pretty unhelpful for your self esteem, as we always seem to see these 'flaws'."

But she does acknowledge that for some people, the constant reflection is unavoidable due to work and other commitments.

Rates of cosmetic procedures also skyrocketed after the Covid lockdowns, with cosmetic clinics around Christchurch noting an increase in bookings. 

This was in spite of Government instruction to not take any unessential medical risks. 

They noted that people were coming in for different procedures, and were more focused on anti-aging and wrinkles, which Kourosh says is a common body check noticed after Zooms. 

This is because of the camera angles and framing on the video chat tool, which many users feel 'ages them'. 

They also commented that more people were coming in with reference photos of influencers from Tik Tok and Instagram, and questioned whether this was due to more time spent on social media over the span of Covid.