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What Is Zoom Dysmorphia And Why Should You Be Aware Of It?

While video calls have proved to be a great tool amidst the pandemic, it has started to affect our self-image too. Here's why you should be more cautious of its side effects.

21 months ago, the idea of doing video calls was such a rare occurrence, save for the occasional FaceTime call from your closest friends and family. Do you even remember that time when the world seemed so clueless as to how it would go on with its meetings, classes, parties, and everything else that required face-to-face interaction? It seems just like yesterday when we all learned the magic of Zoom, or any other video conferencing app for that matter, and how much it would change our world. 

Thanks and no thanks to the pandemic, working from home has become the norm for a majority of the companies worldwide, and so have virtual gatherings, meetings, classes, and whatnot. It's rare these days for a week to pass without an invitation to get on a Zoom call, or to join an extra-curricular activity using one of these video platforms. Can we say we'll be living with Zoom for quite a while, even post-pandemic? We think this is a huge probability. 

While video calls offer a great deal of advantages especially in such a health crisis, we've got to be aware of the fact that it has altered a lot of our ways—from how we present ourselves online, to how we interact, how we fix our space to show in the background, to how we view ourselves on that tiny rectangle on-screen. We are basically presenting ourselves on a virtual screen more often than ever before. 

The sad part is, we may not know it, but we are also affected mentally because of all this video call use, in the sense that we have become a lot more critical about our looks than ever before. This phenomenon has been dubbed 'Zoom dysmorphia', wherein people have become so preoccupied with flaws they see in their appearance, leading a lot of them to pursue drastic measures such as going under the knife to project a much more presentable appearance. Our self-image has been directly affected by Zoom culture. 

To help us get into the meat of the matter, we talked to Mental/Emotional/Spiritual Inner Child Therapist and Integrative Nutritionist Saps Uttam. Saps, being the passionate person that she is about helping people process and deal with a variety of mental and emotional issues, has been kind to share her wisdom about this entire phenomenon, so we can navigate these tricky times better. Read on, and get enlightened!

Metro.Style: It has been almost two years since people discovered the brilliance of online meetings through different platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, etc. How has this impacted how we view ourselves/self-image?

Saps Uttam: Right now, we are seeing that everything online has somehow impacted many people in a very negative way due to the fact that people feel isolated, alone and burnt out. People yearn for touch, human connection, to be held, for them not to feel alone, and since that is the underlying emotion, this impacts people in a negative way. Believe it or not, many people are forgetting the essence of interaction—how to interact in a space wherein it would require face-to-face connection, thus creating poor self -image. Also, when we are constantly in front of our laptops/computers, we feel judged by the space that we have. So we always want to fix it, make it look good as we fear being judged and that has created so much of tension and stress in people. 

MS: Why is it important that we are aware of how this has changed how we perceive our looks?

SU: With the front cameras, we get to then zoom into our looks. We are seeing our flaws, as we are already feeling ‘low”. Focusing on our appearance is basically the thing we do because as humans, we tend to focus on our outside appearance as that is how we view how one would accept us. Are we tall enough, slim enough, is our nose pointy or crooked? As humans it takes a lot of consciousness to focus on our good qualities, but when we are in a slump so to speak, we will fixate on the negative. Since we are in front of our devices, then it would be our outside appearance that we would focus on. Now this is a natural thing, however, excessive fixation to the point of not being happy is when there can be a problem. We compensate on our looks, and focusing on wanting to look good as we don't want to deal with the real issue—which is loneliness and disconnection.

MS: Is this considered a mental disorder? How so?

SU: I wouldn’t say this is a mental disorder. I personally don't like to box or create labels. That is not what I do. What I do is, I create awareness with regard to our actions and looking for the root of said actions. It has to stem from somewhere, and oftentimes in childhood. Maybe something was said in passing growing up and the child never forgot about it and it has been in the mind all this while or when one child was pitted against the other thus creating a poor self-image on the part of this human. 

MS: What are some of the ugly effects of Zoom Dysmorphia?

SU: I've read of many cases happening abroad and many of them rush to change their appearances. In a dash to see someone change the way they look because they can’t bear to see any more of themselves this way. And this is their notion. “If I change the way I look then I can change the way I feel about myself.” 

MS: How can one tell if he or she is already experiencing this?

SU: If they constantly obsess about how they look, if they keep harping on the negative looks, and if they keep talking about it. If they aren’t happy and they can’t stop, then that’s when we know that there is something happening, and they have decided in their minds to do something about it because they aren’t liking the way they look. It almost feels as if it is eating away at them. 

MS: What are the steps one can take to break this mental disorder?

SU: First thing is to just pause and breathe, and truthfully, we can say a mouthful to them but if they don't practice self-love, value themselves, and love every part of themselves, then it would be a hard task. As an Inner Child Therapist, I would have a fair advantage as I would go to the inner child that went through the “trauma”—the inner child that experienced that poor self-image. It has to start from there, as the inner child has to accept and forgive themselves for feeling this way and that is the key. Then it would spill over to the adult. I guess what I’m saying is, the adult has to learn to accept that we aren’t made to look perfect and that perfection isn’t what we are aspiring for, but to embrace the total human being  and to not be quick to disregard parts of ourselves that we aren’t comfortable with. 

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Journaling is good as we can be authentic with ourselves and our feelings. People don't want to be judged. We all just want to be accepted and loved for who we are.  The problem is, we aren’t loving and accepting ourselves and we are waiting for others to “see us, to hear us”, and we aren’t seeing who we really are. We aren’t investing in ourselves. We are too busy judging ourselves and not loving what we have. Stop comparing ourselves to others; everyone has flaws, every single one, and that’s what makes us unique. My message would be to accept that you are a beautiful human being and that the work goes far more than the skin. Learning to love yourself and to accept yourself in totality is what it is all about. 

Interested to learn more from Saps Uttam? Follow her on Instagram @innerglowbysaps

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