Let us, for a bit, talk about the social impact of wearing face masks, not just here in the Fifty States but around the world.
Our society is becoming more and more impersonal. This long-term trend has entered a new phase, with the over-reaction to the Wuhan Pandemic. Masks are a key part of that.
We see our daily communications deteriorating. Why? An inability to see facial expressions. Facial expressions, and body language, is very important in interpersonal communications. It is embedded in our society, our cultures. “Meeting face to face.” Seeing eye-to-eye. “Show me.” And more.
As a result, the effectiveness, the efficiency, of our communicating worsens. We have, in many ways, become faceless even to those we are in close contact with. (Well, “six-feet social distancing contact” with.)
The problem with communicating is not created by face masks and social distancing. It is made worse. It has been noted for several decades that our communications skills are harmed. While the telephone is superior to the written letter (or, heaven forbid, the telegram!), it did not have that valuable eye-to-eye contact.
And then along came social media. The jokes about young people (and now, not so young people) preferring to text are based on reality. No longer not just able to see body language and facial expressions, but not to be able to hear intonations, has created tremendous problems in families and society as a whole.
Wearing masks, coupled with use of social media more and more even to substitute for direct face-to-face conversations, makes it worse. Is the person tense? Angry? Happy? Fearful? Being sarcastic? Trying to be funny? Who can really tell, when half the face (or more) is hidden?
(Of course, it IS easier to avoid fistfights if there is social pressure to maintain six-foot-distances. Or on social media – but instead, we have “cyber-bullying.” But remember: angry people are likely going to ignore such newly-developing habits as no touch, etc. Just as they do even well-established customs for good personal interactions.)
We know that Twitters, texting, Instagrams, Facebook postings and the like do NOT substitute for face-to-face interactions. Letters and numbers – and even pictures, sometimes – are NOT enough. Especially not to communicate more subtle emotions.
And wearing a mask that covers your mouth and nose (if not more), just makes matters as bad (as social media) when you ARE face-to-face.
Coupled with the increased difficulty in speaking and hearing clearly through a mask and at greater distances, this makes it harder to interact. People are discouraged from seeking improvement due to fear of exposure and fear of offending people. All this results in less social cohesion and more potential for confrontation due to misunderstanding. It is damaging to our society, to our culture – and creates problems. Not just makes matters worse, but causes new problems.
It is more than just masks, but they epitomize the problem. Many people are prone to touching, even hugging or showing other physical signs of recognition, acknowledgement, and more. Handshaking is a deeply engrained habit. Not being able to do these things, long-engrained and vital customs, creates stress. And even more stress at being rejected when trying to do these things out of habit. Especially between people who already have social, economic, and political differences. The increased stress raises tensions even in casual contact.
The loss of such common, habitual cues to what the other person is saying is even more troublesome in the middle of a confrontation, negotiations, or under other aggravating circumstances. We become more prone to uncontrollable anger and violence. Are we not seeing this in the daily news in 2020?
Masks hide us and make us more anonymous. We are more likely to (using an extreme term) “dehumanize” someone in a mask or uniform. Facial recognition is an important part of daily life, and not just with friends and persons we are familiar with. Most people treat strangers differently than even casual friends and fellow-workers. Masks make us “unknown” or strangers. We’ve seen this for several years in dealing both with AntiFa and police “special reaction” forces. Masks work to disguise, to hide, to protect the person wearing them – even (or especially if they are doing something wrong). The Guy Fawkes masks of V for Vendetta illustrate this.
But there is more. Masks can be used, even more than other clothing, to communicate messages: political, cultural, even personal. The design, words, symbols or insignia, and even colors can be pleasing or displeasing to those who see it. Especially with casual acquaintances. And there seems to be less compromise, less subtlety about a mask. At the same time, the protection, the anonymity of a mask reduces the wearer’s inhibitions and self-control.
All of these things damage society, and make its collapse easier. None of these factors are new, or recently discovered. Psychologists have known this for a long time. As have people on the streets. So, is this one reason that masks have become so critical to the powers-that-be? Is the protection (dubious though it is) just an excuse to further erode our society, our culture. AND our liberty?
Some last words – funny or not!
If you are driving with a mask on, you don’t need a Biden sticker on your car – we already know.
If you are driving by yourself with a mask on, we are going to assume you are resisting the urge to lick the windows.
If you are driving by yourself with a mask on, are you still making put-put noises as you drive? That at least is one legitimate reason to wear a mask if you don’t have wipers on the inside of your windshield.
Traveling through the Front Range this weekend, with the 36,000-acre Cameron Peak Fire laying down a vast cloud of smoke, there may be a real reason to wear a mask to help cut down some of the soot and ash you would breath in otherwise.