Never before have we spent so much time looking at our faces. Video conferencing platforms used during the pandemic have left millions of people examining their wrinkles, leading many to consider surgery.
But how is Zoom different from mirrors or selfies?
Since the first blockages in March 2020, cosmetic surgery specialists have been reporting a dramatic increase in requests for minor facial interventions following the global shift to remote working.
The way we perceive our own face in video chat programs like Zoom is usually more negative than our mirror image, says Joerg Blesse, who leads the annual conference of the German Society for Aesthetic and Plastic Surgery (DGAePC).
He is one of many surgeons around the world who have linked an increase in demand for facial procedures this year and the last to the rise of Zoom and other video conferencing tools as millions of people have been asked to work from home during the lockdown.
In Britain, in the weeks following the first blockages of 2020, the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) was already predicting a “Zoom Boom” during the pandemic and noted an increase of 33% in men and 66 % of young women seeking virtual plastic surgery consultations.
In the United States, 64% of plastic surgeries reported an increase in their telemedicine visits in June 2020.
The trend appears to be continuing and according to a 2021 survey of DGAePC patients in Germany, facial beautification procedures without major incisions – such as operations to tighten the eyelids – are much more in demand in 2021 than in previous years.
This is also evident in statistics from the country’s largest professional society, the Association of German Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (VDAePC).
So what makes Zoom want people all over the world to change their face?
“A lot of them are like, ‘Oh, that’s me over there,’” Blesse says, then focus on their faces for much of a meeting.
But the way we look at our faces in Zoom is also different from the way we see ourselves in the mirror or take selfies with our phones, the researchers say.
“Unlike fixed and filtered social media selfies, Zoom displays an unprecedented version of the self in motion, a self-representation that very few people are used to seeing on a daily basis,” write the authors of a November 2020 study. on Zoom’s impact on self-perception.
Unlike real-world conversations, where we don’t see our faces, let alone compare them to those of others, in Zoom we’re constantly being shown what we look like.
“This can have drastic effects on body dissatisfaction and the desire for cosmetic procedures,” say the authors of the article, published in Facial Plastic Surgery & Aesthetic Medicine.
“Additionally, cameras can distort video quality and create an inaccurate representation of actual appearance,” write authors Shauna M. Rice, Emmy Graber and Arianne Shadi Kourosh, noting that the size of a nose can be distorted by different objectives and their distance from the object.
“Webcams, which inevitably record at shorter focal lengths, tend to produce an overall more rounded face, larger eyes, and a wider nose.”
Not only that, but the person confronted at length with their own face in online meetings can also be affected emotionally by what they see in themselves. What you might see as wrinkled or tired eyes can cause you to perceive yourself as sad or tired as a result, the researchers write.
However, we shouldn’t attribute the rise of cosmetic surgery entirely to video chat, and Blesse notes that the requirement to wear a mask has also drawn more attention to the eyes.
However, the increase in small facial interventions due to a more intense concern for self-image is also worrying many specialists in Germany.
For more and more people, the threshold for such minimally invasive procedures is much lower than for more complex operations, explains Harald Kaisers, president of the association of surgeons DGAePC.
“We are particularly critical of the presentation of such aesthetic plastic treatments on social media. There is a lot of information, but no explanation.”
Influencers on platforms like Instagram, who present these treatments as a lifestyle product and not as a medical intervention, are also contributing.
Those who wish to be injected with Botox or hyaluronic acid do not necessarily have to consult a specialist. Such wrinkle “fillers” are medical products, says VDAePC chairman Steffen Handstein.
“Anyone can buy them. It’s a pretty weird situation. There are a lot of places that can do it legally, even though they can’t deal with the possible complications.”
On platforms like YouTube, there are even video instructions for injecting yourself with hyaluronic acid, says Kaisers. “You can go blind if you don’t inject it properly.”
The two associations are therefore asking for more restrictions on the activity of such treatments. “It is in the hands of specialists,” Kaisers said, stressing that the trend towards such minor interventions is expected to continue even after the pandemic. – dpa