For some, video conferencing exacerbated existing body dysmorphia. Sam, a 28-year-old data analyst from Toronto, says he’s experienced intrusive thoughts about his body since his mid-20s, when he started to fixate on perceived flaws about single facial features.
“I began constantly stopping at mirrors or reflective surfaces to confirm whether the facial feature actually aligned with my mental image of it,” he says. On Microsoft Teams, he found himself “mirror checking” all day.
Tweaking his webcam angle to hide non-existent imperfections didn’t help, and Teams doesn’t allow users to hide self-view. Sam tried therapy for his body dysmorphia, but ultimately, he decided on a nose job.
“I was pleased with the results for a few months but later, the dysmorphia re-emerged, and I found a new flaw in the same facial feature,” he says. “I’m now on the waitlist for a therapist with body dysmorphic disorder expertise.”
Distressed by the way he looked in Zoom meetings, Chad Teixeira, a 25-year-old entrepreneur from London, booked himself plastic surgery in Turkey on a whim in March.
The 10-hour operation, which included liposuction and a tummy tuck, led to a near 90lb weight loss. But Teixeira also lost a dangerous amount of blood during the operation, and he’s had to have two blood transfusions since.
While Teixeira says he feels more confident in calls with colleagues and clients and his mental health has improved due to his weight loss – he says he’d do things differently if he had the chance.
“I don’t think I would have done something so drastic on a whirlwind if I hadn’t been looking at myself all the time,” he says. “Zoom drove me to risk my life for the perfect body.”
Returning to in-person events feels like a breath of fresh air for Teixeira. But it hasn’t tempered his desire for cosmetic tweaks. He has plans to pursue more liposuction and a “fake six-pack” next.
Jane, on the other hand, has mixed feelings. Her job will be online for the foreseeable future, and because she feels less attractive on screen than in real life, she’s considering a rhinoplasty to improve her confidence.
But resolving her anxiety about her physical appearance sparks its own kind of insecurity, she says.
“It feels juvenile as a 40-year-old woman to think about my looks like a teenager, because there are bigger problems in the world.”