A study has shown that spending several hours a day on video conferencing software like Zoom can have a negative impact on our self-esteem, especially for women.
Zoom could damage your self-esteem
In recent years, we’ve spent more time than ever on video conferencing programs like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype and FaceTime. These applications allow users to simulate an online meeting, and they can see the people they are communicating with. But unlike in-person communications, these programs show users a video of themselves. Instead of occasionally seeing themselves in a mirror, people now look at themselves for hours every day.
A study by a team of psychologistsat the University of South Florida found that the more women focused on their appearance during video calls, the less satisfied they would be with their appearance. In addition, women spending the most time on Zoom or any other video conferencing tool would have a worse self-image than their male counterparts. They would also show some fatigue from this mode of conversation more pronounced.
Moreover, according to this study, they are often encouraged to activate their camera with the idea that it could be to their advantage, and that being attractive on video could lead them to be more convincing in interviews or meetings. A large body of research shows that looking attractive has tangible social and economic benefits, for women more than for men.
A phenomenon of self-objectification
These results stem from a phenomenon that researchers call self-objectification. This is a psychological phenomenon that leads people to treat themselves as objects to be observed.
Not surprisingly, women’s bodies are much more often objectified than men’s. Because women and girls are raised in a culture that prioritizes their appearance, they internalize the idea that they are objects. Therefore, women objectify themselves, treating themselves as objects to be looked at.
Researchers study self-objectification in experimental studies by asking study participants to focus on their appearance. We then measure their cognitive, emotional, behavioral or physiological outcomes. Research has shown that being near a mirror, taking pictures of yourself and feeling that your appearance is being evaluated by others increases self-objectification. So when you log into a virtual meeting, you are essentially doing all of these things at once.
But self-objectification has very concrete consequences. It has been shown, for example, that a woman who feels ashamed to see herself in a new bathing suit will change her diet considerably. But she may also have difficulties in learning certain subjects such as mathematics in many cases. Women who are prone to self-objectification may also experience impairments in motor performance that other women will not experience, or a reduced ability to assess and express their emotions or feelings.
The researchers therefore invite all women who may feel concerned by this mechanism to turn off their camera as much as possible during Zoom meetings and to protect themselves from the gaze of others if they feel the need to do so, in order to protect their mental health in the long term.