Recently, I discovered Zoom has a function called “Hide Self View”. In case you haven’t seen this yet: it’s a neat little piece of functionality that lets you hide your own camera view from yourself. Everyone else can still see you, and you can still see everyone except yourself.
This gave me two realizations. One a practical application and the other a more philosophical implication.
The first realization is the practical application of this function. Which can be divided into the digital world of online meetings and the real-life world.
I don’t know about you guys, but when I’m in a meeting and see my own camera as well, I look at myself…a lot. Seeing my own image the entire time raises a lot of questions in my mind;
- Am I slouching?
- Can they see something weird in my background?
- Do I look bored?
- How does my hair look today?
These are just a few examples of the torrent of thoughts going through my head when I see myself like that. The point isn’t that these thoughts are abnormal, it’s that while I’m thinking these, I am not paying proper attention to the actual meeting. Not really listening to what other people are saying.
When you use the Hide Self View function Zoom offers all this disappears. It frees us up to look at the other participants in the meeting and actively listen to them instead of worrying about how we look.
What we do in this way in a video call is a metaphor for what we do in our real lives as well. We are constantly watching ourselves, judging ourselves; our appearance, the way we think others perceive us, etc. Even if we don’t physically see ourselves reflected in a mirror or on a webcam, we still have these questions in our heads.
Most of these thoughts are aimed at what other people think about us. We worry people think we don’t look good or that we come off in a certain way we don’t want. These are of course all our insecurities projected outwards and they have a self-fulfilling prophecy kind of effect.
- When we wonder if people think we don’t look confident, we are basically being unconfident about being confident. Take one guess how we will appear then…
- Or when we wonder if our new piece of clothing will be deemed worthy by our peers, we will (subconsciously) aim our own attention towards it and in that way drawing others’ attention in as well. People might be wondering: “Why is this guy constantly fiddling with his buttons?”, which in turn enforces our belief that there is something wrong with it.
We worry about how something looks, feels, can be perceived by others and therefore put all of our fearful, negative attention on that thing. We subsequently draw all attention to it, enforcing our fear and the vicious circle is born. Our actions follow our beliefs which lead to results that affirm our beliefs…and on and on…
These beliefs are based on how we see ourselves; our self view, and we are (involuntarily and subconsciously) constantly looking outwards to get them reaffirmed by others.
The second negative impact this can have, in the real world, is the same as in the Zoom meeting. We are so preoccupied worrying about what others are thinking about us, that we don’t have the mental space anymore to really pay attention to these very people. We can’t really listen, we will just look for signs that reaffirm our fears.
There is also a philosophical implication in this (as goes for anything in life if you look at things in that way), which is more of a metaphorical one.
What if we could “Hide Self View” in our normal lives?
What I mean by the self here is the “false self”, the constructed self, our ego. Essentially speaking, if we manage to stop looking at the false self, we will see who we really are, without our stories about ourselves attached to us. This is what is widely agreed upon as (one/) the definition of enlightenment; seeing reality for what it really is, without our story about it, attached to it.
To Hide Self View here would simply mean to stop giving our focused attention to the thoughts that distract us from being in the moment and seeing things for how they really are, instead of our imposed view of ourselves and the world.
How can we use this in daily life?
If we hide our self view and just look at the outside world we might be able to find some peace from our mind and its constant chatter. From its constant search for outside approval, its insecurities, and limiting beliefs about ourselves. Hiding this “Self View” is in essence what we try to accomplish in many different practices like mindfulness and meditation.
The answer as to how we can use this in normal life is also twofold.
The first is the most obvious and it’s basically what I wrote about in the Practical Application part of this article. Just turn off your own camera or at least stop paying attention to yourself. Whether or not there is a Hide Self View function, is not what is important. It’s about being aware, becoming conscious, of the fact that we are constantly watching ourselves and wondering about what other people might think about us. Once we are aware of this, we can make an effort to not do that and focus on the people around us, be more in the moment and just worry less about (non-existent) threats to our ego.
The second is the more existential one. If we make a practice out of paying less and less attention to our “false self” (which is just a fancy way of saying: the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves in our heads), we will become quieter inside, more peaceful, and eventually happier.