Study: Staring at yourself in online meetings makes many moody

Study: Staring at yourself in online meetings makes many moody

Don’t stare — at yourself.

At least not during virtual meetings online with friends or business associates. A study out of the University of Illinois suggests the longer we look at ourselves during those split-screen video meetings, the more we descend into the realm of mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.

The finding might be one explanation for the surge of mental fatigue and melancholy seen during the coronavirus pandemic.

Americans are certainly spending far more time meeting online than ever before. The virtual meeting platform Zoom climbed from 10 million pre-pandemic users to a whopping 300 million a couple of months after the contagion first bloomed.

Study scientists say their findings reinforce earlier research that people who focus more on themselves than external realities are more prone to moodiness.

Participants in the investigation were asked about their emotions before and after virtual video meetings, including some who were asked to drink alcohol. Eye-tracking technology monitored who they were looking at.

For the most part, folks looked at other people during their online conversation, and not themselves. But those focused on themselves experienced negative emotions. Alcohol tends to amplify the effect.

Why they felt that downturn in their mood remains unclear. One possibility is that some people are hypercritical about how they look. As researchers note, online meetings simulate the experience of looking in a mirror.

So, don’t look in the looking glass and ask who’s the fairest of them all. The answer, it seems, will send some of us into an emotional funk.

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