The Covid-19 pandemic has brought its own share of mental health issues and Zoom Dysmorphia is one of them. In a report, The Guardian described it as the breakdown of how we perceive our own self image because of staring at ourselves during video conferences.
According to the report, the phenomenon was nicknamed “Zoom dysmorphia” by the dermatologist and Harvard Medical School professor Dr Shadi Kourosh, who noticed an increase in appointment requests for appearance-related issues during the pandemic.
“I was concerned that the time spent on these cameras was negatively affecting people’s perceptions of their appearance,” she says. Kourosh likens the video conference via phone camera to a “funhouse mirror” because, she says: “[People] are not looking at a true reflection of themselves. They don’t realise it is a distorted mirror.” She says factors such as the angle and how close we are to the camera mask how we really look.
She noted there had been a spike in specific requests for nose jobs and smoothing out forehead wrinkles. And the more Kourosh looked into it the more she wondered in what ways these 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. In March of this year, British plastic surgeons reported a 70% increase in consultations, explained the report.
In a paper titled “A Pandemic of Dysmorphia: Zooming into the Perception of Our Appearance” published in Liebertpub, the researchers said: “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. Webcams, inevitably recording at shorter focal lengths, tend to produce an overall more rounded face, wider set eyes and broader nose. It is important for patients to recognise the limitations of webcams and understand that they are, at best, a flawed representation of reality.”