One of the most surprising ways that videocalls have changed our lives comes from one small feature that has become so much a part of our everyday lives that we usually take it for granted: we are now seeing reflections of ourselves like never before.
Self-view gives us a mirror reflection of our appearance that by default is always with us. Never have we spent so much time looking at ourselves! If you’ve ever had the experience of so many back-to-back videocalls that you don’t even know where the time has gone, chances are you’ve also been watching yourself doing it.
While some of us probably can’t get enough of our own reflection, self-view has a number of negative psychological impacts on our work. Looking at mirrors draws our attention to how other people see us and research has shown that doing so increases our self-evaluation and worry about our appearance. The urge to check our appearance on videocalls distracts us from what’s happening in the meeting, making it harder for us to connect with participants. This compounds the lack of in-person body language cues that we naturally rely on so much for non-verbal communication. The extra strain contributes to our feeling of video call fatigue, which depletes us if we spend a lot of our time in videocalls. This is a challenge because we tend to feel more engaged with our cameras on during videocalls, so it’s difficult to take breaks from seeing ourselves during meetings.
Turning off self-view is one of the quickest ways identified by the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab for reducing stress from videocalls. Although it is on by default in most apps, it is easily switched off in settings. We’re going to look at how to do this in Microsoft Teams and Zoom, two of the most popular videocall apps.
It’s taxing on us. It’s stressful. And there’s lots of research showing that there are negative emotional consequences to seeing yourself in a mirror.
Professor Jeremy Bailenson, Director of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab
Disabling self-view in Microsoft Teams
Disabling self-view was one of the most requested changes to Teams, being rolled out as a feature in 2022.
Self-view can be disabled by selecting the Hide me option from the ellipsis menu at the bottom corner of your video feed.
Disabling self-view in Zoom
Self-view can be disabled in Zoom by selecting the Hide Self View option from the View menu at the top corner of your video feed.
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