HYDERABAD : The other day, I was in a masterclass and we all decided that since it’s the last day, we must take a group photo. It was then that I discovered something new. It was a ‘face touch up’. I could add makeup, blush, reshape my eyebrows or use lipstick and my choice of eye-makeup. Wow! I had never heard of such a feature. Just as I was registering my surprise, someone asked me, “Hey, where is the bindi setting? I really want your big bindi!” I could all but barely stammer, “No, that’s not a setting, that’s my own.”
After class, I texted on the social media group asking why this feature ended up here. I mean, this is a meeting place for professionals, students etc. The answer got me thinking. “How would you feel if you had to stare at yourself all day, every day?” I realised that I too was sick of seeing myself on screen for hours, which is probably why I would change my background, the lighting, the brightness etc. and now I had the knowledge and the access to a feature that can change the colour of my lips and nails too!
Psychologists call this social media fatigue or Zoom fatigue.
I don’t even remember having to look at myself when I taught, interacted with others, spoke at a conference or sang at a party. Today, here I am, well coiffed, trying hard not to make funny expressions while I listen or speak on a social media platform. I take screenshots and balk at how awful or how comical I seem.
A recent research says that constantly seeing yourself makes you more self-conscious and heightens your sense of self-awareness, the consequences of which may not always be pleasant or welcome. Also, when the self (we) becomes the object of attention and awareness, there is heightened self-accountability and we end up closely monitoring our behaviour, gestures and general social standing.
There is a sense of shyness, embarrassment and self-critique. So, in the world of the internet, where anonymity makes one unaccountable for their behaviour, a platform where one sees oneself could make them more accountable, which sounds like a good thing.
This is the perfect way to inculcate etiquette on the internet. It could be the harbinger of more humane exchanges and less toxic fallouts due to faux pas, trolling rages and other low behaviours.
Social media fatigue is real, it happens to all of us. The good part is that we have become more conscious, self-critical, conscientious, polite, ethical and self-accountable. Well, hallelujah!
For Mind Matters by Dr Purnima Nagaraja
(The author is a consultant psychiatrist at Dhrithi Wellness Clinic, Hyderabad)