This finding points to a potentially problematic role for video conferencing platforms in exacerbating psychological problems such as anxiety and depression, the researchers say.
“We used eye-tracking technology to examine the relationship between mood, alcohol, and attentional focus during virtual social interactions,” said Talia Ariss, a University of Illinois doctoral candidate Urbana-Champaign, who led the study with U. of I. psychology professor Catharine. Fairbairn.
“We found that participants who spent a lot of time looking at themselves in conversation felt worse after the call, even after controlling for negative moods before the interaction. And those who did not. under the influence of alcohol spend more time looking at themselves.”
The findings add to previous studies that suggest that people who focus more on themselves than on external realities — especially in social interactions — may be more prone to mood disturbances, Ariss said. .
. “The more self-centered a person is, the more likely they are to report emotions that are consistent with things like anxiety and even depression,” she says.
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“Users of the online video calling platform Zoom have grown 30-fold during the pandemic – increasing from 10 million in December 2019 to 300 million in April 2020The researchers wrote. “The pandemic has increased levels of depression and anxiety, and has resulted in reports of higher levels of self-awareness and ‘fatigue’ during virtual exchanges, some of whom have shown a role to play. role of virtual interaction in exacerbating such trends.”
In the study, participants answered questions about their emotional state before and after online chats. They were instructed to talk about their likes and dislikes of living in the local community in conversations, and discuss their musical preferences. Participants can see themselves and their chat partners on the split screen. Some drink alcoholic beverages before talking and others drink non-alcoholic beverages.
The researchers found that, in general, participants stared at their chat partner more on the screen than they did at themselves. But there were significant differences in the amount of time participants individually spent staring at themselves.
“The cool thing about virtual social interactions, especially in platforms like Zoom, is that you can simulate the experience of looking in a mirrorAris said. This allows researchers to explore how self-focus affects a range of other factors, she says.
Adding alcohol to the experiment and using eye-tracking technology also allowed scientists to explore how light intoxication affects where a person focuses their attention.
“In the context of human social interaction, there is strong evidence that alcohol acts as a social lubricant among drinkers and has mood-enhancing properties,” says Ariss. this”. “However, this is not true in online conversations, where drinking corresponds to more self-centeredness and none of the typical mood-boosting effects.”
“At this point in the pandemic, many of us have realized that virtual interactions are not the same as face-to-face,” said Fairbairn.
“A lot of people are struggling with fatigue and melancholy after a full day of meetings with Zoom. Our work shows that the self-view offered in many online video platforms can make those interactions more like a tagline than they should be. ”