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Mental Health

Why you shouldn’t look at yourself during video calls

“The more self-focused a person is, the more likely they are to report feeling emotions that are consistent with things like anxiety and depression.”

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Many portraits faces of diverse young and aged people webcam view, while engaged in videoconference on-line meeting lead by businessman leader. Group video call application easy usage concept
Users of the online video call platform Zoom increased 30-fold during the pandemic. (Sun Shock/Shutterstock)

By Danny Halpin via SWNS

Looking at yourself during an online video call can worsen your mood, according to a new study.

Scientists found that online meeting platforms may be exacerbating psychological problems such as anxiety and depression.

Lead author Talia Ariss, of the University of Illinois, said the findings add to previous studies suggesting that people who focus more on themselves than on what’s around them, especially during conversation, may be susceptible to mood disorders.

She added: “We used eye-tracking technology to examine the relationship between mood, alcohol and attentional focus during virtual social interaction.

“We found that participants who spent more time looking at themselves during the conversation felt worse after the call, even after controlling for pre-interaction negative mood.

“And those who were under the influence of alcohol spent more time looking at themselves.

“The more self-focused a person is, the more likely they are to report feeling emotions that are consistent with things like anxiety and depression.”

Back view of business latin man talking to her mexican colleagues in video conference business team using laptop for a online meeting in video call working from home in Latin America
Many people report feelings of fatigue and melancholy after a full day of Zoom meetings. (Light and Vision/Shutterstock)

In setting out their motivations for doing the study, the researchers wrote: “Users of the online video call platform Zoom increased 30-fold during the pandemic – burgeoning from 10 million in December 2019 to 300 million by April 2020.

“The pandemic has yielded a surge in levels of depression and anxiety and, given reports of heightened self-awareness and fatigue during virtual exchange, some have posited a role for virtual interaction in exacerbating such trends.”

Reporting in the journal Clinical Psychology Science, they asked participants to answer questions about their mood before and after the online conversations.

They were told to talk about what they liked and disliked about living in the local community during the chats and to discuss what music they liked.

Participants could see themselves and their conversation partners on a split-screen monitor. Some had an alcoholic drink before talking whereas others had a soft drink.

In general, participants stared at their conversation partners much more than they looked at themselves.

But the researchers found significant differences in the amount of time individual participants spent gazing at their own face.

They also said how adding alcohol to the experiment and using eye-tracking technology allowed them to explore how mild inebriation affected where people focused their attention.

Ms. Ariss added: “The cool thing about virtual social interactions, especially in platforms like Zoom, is that you can simulate the experience of looking in a mirror.”

She added: “In the context of social interactions, there is strong evidence that alcohol acts as a social lubricant among drinkers and has these mood-enhancing properties.

“This did not hold true, however, in the online conversations, where alcohol consumption corresponded to more self-focus and had none of its typical mood-boosting effects.”

Her colleague Professor Catherine Fairbairn said: “At this point in the pandemic, many of us have come to the realization that virtual interactions just aren’t the same as face-to-face.

“A lot of folks are struggling with fatigue and melancholy after a full day of Zoom meetings.

“Our work suggests the self-view offered in many online video platforms might make those interactions more of a slog than they need to be.”

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