Arts & Sciences

Mirror, mirror on the monitor

Are we less satisfied with our appearances since the dawn of the "Age of Zoom?" Research from Washington University in St. Louis tackles the question. (Image: Shutterstock)

Most people wouldn’t sit in front of a mirror for hours a day, checking themselves out, but the COVID-19 pandemic has found many doing just that.

Video chatting services such as Zoom have become a common way to keep in touch with friends, family and co-workers. But it’s also forced people to sit face-to-face with themselves with a clear view of every pimple, every wrinkle and every awkward expression they’d otherwise never see.

It’s just weird. But is it worse than that? Have our self-perceptions changed?

Research from Washington University in St. Louis suggests that for most women — but not for all women — this new view of themselves has not been accompanied by any changes in how satisfied they are with their appearance. The research, carried out by first author Gabrielle Pfund, a graduate student in the lab of Patrick Hill, associate professor in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences in Arts & Sciences, was published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

As video chatting became more pervasive, “I thought, this is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I wonder if this is affecting people?” Pfund anticipated she might find that people would generally be less satisfied with their appearance the more their video chat usage increased.

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