One potential long-term effect of the COVID-19 pandemic may include an increase in facial dysmorphia, along with the resulting demand for cosmetic procedures. Many of us have spent the past 2 years staring at our own faces, fixating on wrinkles, droopy jowls or perhaps the shape of our nose, during endless online meetings. This intense self-scrutiny has helped fuel a spike in demand for injectables and other procedures, sometimes referred to as the “Zoom Boom”. Other factors, such as reduced spending in other areas, or the ease of recovering at home during lockdowns, might also be playing into this.
Researchers in Melbourne found more than a third of Australian respondents to a survey identified new concerns about their appearance as a result of video conferencing. The most common issues were weight or shape related (e.g. “chubby cheeks”), followed by skin, nose, hair, eyes and mouth.
Video-conferencing platforms are here to stay, as most of us realise we no longer need to catch a plane to attend an interstate meeting. But maybe we can learn to use them better, to avoid the intense self-criticism they sometimes inspire.
In any other context it would be profoundly abnormal for us to stare at ourselves when interacting with other people. Imagine how you’d react if a colleague brought a mirror along to a work meeting and kept their gaze fixed on their own reflection for the duration. On most of the video-conferencing platforms, you can easily toggle your settings to turn off self-view. Everybody else will still be able to see you but, just as in a real-world meeting, you won’t see yourself. The problem is most of us don’t take up this option. Fewer than 1% of respondents to the Melbourne researcher’s survey did, for example.
More fundamentally, we might also want to think about the pressures that make us think we need the fillers, the Botox (Allergan), and all the other interventions, the pressures that convince us that imperfections or ageing is a shameful secret and we’re not good enough as we are.