Hands up who’s opened up their iPhone camera only to discover it’s on selfie mode, and been ‘treated’ to a wholly unfiltered view of their double chin, jowls and under-eye bags. Yep thought so. OK, now admit it, since the advent of COVID-19, have you, or anyone in your household constructed a hasty plinth for your laptop and switched off the overhead lights – all the better to flatter on Zoom?
For, if there’s one thing guaranteed to make you feel worse than the interminable meeting you’re sitting in on, it’s the fact that you have to stare at yours truly for the duration. Every grimace and frown, every snort-laugh, the slightly gormless glaze as you operate the share screen function or search for a document to send over, there they are mirrored back at you in all their glory. And it’s messing with our self-image.
That’s a self-image that’s already somewhat battered by the continual barrage of filtered perfection we see on social media. But while we can turn off notifications, delete apps or simply remind ourselves that those pictures don’t tell the whole story in order to preserve our mental health, we’re stuck on video conferencing all day, every day.
“Over-focusing on your appearance for prolonged periods of time can actually distort your perceptions so that you’re no longer really seeing yourself clearly,” Hilary Weingarden, a body dysmorphia expert at Massachusetts General Hospital told Vogue. “This is especially true when you look at your appearance up close and fixate on an area of concern for a prolonged period of time, rather than looking more holistically at your full reflection. That body part of concern can start to appear very blown out of proportion to you.”
What’s more, just as we spend more time than ever in front of our screens, we’re being told that blue light exposure is exacerbating the problem. “It is highly likely that exposure to blue light has increased this year, as many previously office-based workers have increased their time in front of a screen, as face-to-face meetings have moved to virtual. People should be looking for skincare products loaded with antioxidants, as well as niacinamide and zinc oxide,” says Unilever Global Vice President, Science & Technology, Beauty & Personal Care, Samantha Tucker-Samuras. It’s no coincidence that skin care has started to boom since the use of video conferencing became commonplace. This phenomenon is a marketer’s dream. People who are forced to examine their every flaw all day, every day are more likely to attempt to correct whatever they perceive to be the problem. Reopened aesthetics clinics have also reported a surge in enquiries post lockdown, which it is attributing not to the period of closure but to the increased use of video conferencing. I’m surprised we haven’t seen a barrage of products claiming to be the answer to all our facetime woes. Beauty, you’re missing a trick.