Millions of people are turn to video-chatting to satisfy their social and professional needs during shutdown. But for people with body issues, watching themselves on camera all day long can be triggering.It’s important to keep in mind the true purpose of your chat, that the screen is not an accurate representation of you, and that you can turn the camera off if needed.Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
With beaches closed in many states, the pressure to maintain a beach body has temporarily lessened for some. But as people spend record amounts of time on camera, a new kind of pressure has replaced it.”There are plenty of people out there that are a bit self-conscious about how they present. But when they get online, they’re dealing with that in real time,” said cyberpsychologist Andrew Franklin, of Norfolk State University. Now, both work and social gatherings are played out on video-conferencing programs like Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Microsoft Teams. They allow us to see each other as we usually do, but with the unusual experience of watching ourselves, too, which can be triggering for some.”One of the difficulties around the video conferencing is that you see yourself on the screen for a prolonged period of time,” said eating disorder specialist Renee McGregor. “What that can do is make you consider your flaws.”
For those who do find their body dysphoria, eating disorders, or niggling feelings of insecurity exacerbated by constant video chats, here are some ways to cope.It’s easy to spiral into a negative headspace when you’re confronted with yourself on video. Human beings weren’t meant to live with their lives reflected back at them. But when you feel yourself veering into a negative space, try to remember why you logged on. “If you’re fixating on what you look like, remember that you’re video-chatting for some sort of purpose,” said McGregor. “The person speaking to you is not speaking to you because of what you look like, they’re speaking to you because of what you’re discussing. Keep that in mind, rather than focusing on what’s not helpful to you.”
When you’re on a video chat, you’re talking in a limited setting, with an environment you can control, and for people with social anxieties, these limitations are actually a benefit.
“Use the virtual environment to your advantage,” said Franklin. “The limited environment can help people cope with others, especially for those who have trouble in a face to face capacity.” There are a lot of unknowns when socializing in person, from how people will react to non-verbal cues to tone of voice. For people anxious about their physical presentation, all of those unknowns can be an added stressor on an in-person meeting. But on video chat, the meeting are likely to have a defined ending time and the setting is controlled.You can position yourself in a setting where the background is not distracting, and try to focus on what’s happening in the meeting instead of what people see when they see you. You can also cover the part of the screen showing your face with a post-it if needed.There are a lot of articles online about how to look good while video-chatting, because often video-chatting just isn’t flattering to anyone.
But it’s good to remember that what you see in the camera is not an accurate representation of how you appear to other people. That image is affected by light, camera angle, where you’re sitting, and a host of other factors, and that happens to everyone.”It helps to be mindful of the fact that the image that’s being projected is not a 3D image,” said McGregor.”Some people are really photogenic, while some people’s features don’t pick up very well in 2D images but do in real life, and what’s on camera probably isn’t a true representation of what you actually are.”
If you feel overwhelmed in a video chat, chances are other people are as well. It is okay to tell people that you’d rather just do an audio call.”If your employer doesn’t mind, you can ask to shut off the camera,” said Franklin. “If one is feeling self-conscious, sometimes the best thing is just to shut down the camera and interact without it.”
And you don’t have to explain why in-detail. You can just say, “hey, is it okay if I don’t use my camera today?”Even if it feels silly to request that you not have your camera on, Franklin says that in times like this, it is important to be kind to yourself. “Oftentimes tell my students the person that you communicate with the most in your life is yourself. You talk to yourself about you, you talk to yourself about the world. You want to be cognizant of what you’re saying about yourself,” said Franklin. “You want to make sure you’re being kind to yourself.”LoadingSomething is loading.