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Digital World. Real Anxiety. Facing skin conditions in an on-screen society.

Since March, we've been spending a lot of time in front of our computers. Zoom, WebEx, RingCentral, and Google Classroom have replaced once-ubiquitous boardroom meetings and traditional in-school lessons. Our lives have become increasingly virtual, spending much of our time plugged in. Beyond school and work, we are also getting groceries, receiving health care, and hosting happy hours through our devices. And while technology has been instrumental in surviving a global pandemic, it's not without pitfalls.

All of this online time, much of it spent staring at our reflections on-screen, is increasing our anxiety. New studies confirm the growing hyper-awareness of our appearance. It's draining emotionally, mentally, and physically to always be on camera, especially in applications that reflect our image as we participate in conferences and classrooms.1 For those facing skin conditions, the stress typically experienced in public situations is magnified as they are presented with their face, on a computer, for up to eight hours a day.

Traditionally, we would limit (or eliminate) screen exposure, see a physician for the skin issue at hand, and resolve the problem over time with a series of in-office appointments. Today, that's unrealistic. Screentime, for the foreseeable future, is essential to daily life. In-office appointments are difficult to obtain and carry risks of Covid-19 exposure. With wait times to see a dermatologist increasing beyond their already lengthy 32-day average, and the chance of another wave of infection threatening those visits, telemedicine has become the most accessible option for patients.

Fortunately, for those seeking dermatologic care, video visits are not typically required. While a handful of states require a short interaction, the overwhelming majority of patients can get high-quality care from a board-certified dermatologist on our platform by simply answering a few questions about their health and uploading 2-9 photos of the affected area. Not only is this a lower-stress way to solve skin problems, but it's also convenient. This telemedicine method, called store-and-forward, allows patients to conduct visits when they are ready. No appointment is needed. And for those in a state which requires video, the conversation is quick and professional. Our physicians are experts at delivering online care and help patients feel at ease.

So what can be done to mitigate Zoom anxiety in the meantime?

  • Be open about feelings with team members or teachers. Discuss alternatives to being on camera all the time. Chances are, others in the group feel the same way.
  • Quickly appear on camera when a video call begins to let other members know you're logged in, then immediately turn it off. Consider only turning on your camera when speaking - this will help avoid the trap of staring at your reflection while others talk.
  • Practice mindfulness when you're on a call and cannot turn off your video. Intentionally bring your focus to the person speaking. Our brains are wired to hone in on our faces whenever they are in front of us. It takes practice to concentrate on other people or images.


1. Explicit and Implicit Responses of Seeing Own vs. Others' Emotions: An Electromyographic Study on the Neurophysiological and Cognitive Basis of the Self-Mirroring Technique. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00433/full