It’s no new revelation that the pandemic has been rough on everyone’s mental health. Which is why, during quarantine, health experts with the best intentions encouraged us to offset our feelings of isolation by staying connected through Zoom happy hours and other digital gatherings.
However, a new study suggests that all of those video chats may have taken an unintentional toll on our self-esteem by making us look at our own faces way more than any of us wanted to.
More specifically, researchers “used eye-tracking technology to examine the relationship between mood, alcohol and attentional focus during virtual social interaction,” study co-author Talia Ariss, a University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign doctoral candidate, explained in a press release.
Ariss and her team followed 246 social drinkers before and after their video calls, randomly assigning alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages to them beforehand. “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,” Ariss said.
So no matter how great you feel beforehand, once you start looking at yourself on Zoom, it’s all downhill from there. And interestingly, while alcohol has been found to act as a “social lubricant” with mood-enhancing qualities in face-to-face interactions, Ariss noted that “this didn’t hold true in the online conversations, where alcohol consumption corresponded to more self-focus and had none of its typical mood-boosting effects.”
Although the findings may be a good enough excuse to never attend another virtual happy hour, they’re also a good reminder to not look at yourself during a Zoom therapy session. Clearly, it’s only going to make your problems worse.