Face Masks and People: A Complicated Relationship

As if the fact that we’re in the midst of a global pandemic isn’t enough – this weird rebellious nature of not wearing a piece of cloth should be the last thing we have to worry about. Before getting into the article, I do want to point out that some people with psychological or other health related issues might find wearing a facemask rather difficult. Before we judge, we should always consider not stigmatising the wrong crowd.

Living in the Netherlands, most people here don’t really feel the need to wear a mask. I mean, the majority of people here probably never needed to wear a mask for their well being or health before – let alone while they go for groceries.

Here, the Dutch government has held about eight (?) eleven (?) press conferences ever since the start of the pandemic and not once has it been announced that wearing a facemask is mandatory (unless you’re travelling in public transport or if you’re within certain areas of a city). Apart from that, face masks remain optional. Sure, it might suck having to wear face masks as you go about your Thursday afternoon shopping. But you know what else sucks? Getting sick, potentially dying and or infecting others. That would suck even more, big time.

I went to try to categorise the people I’m trying to point out. Here we go:

The “try” – ers (I couldn’t really come up with a better name)  

You have people who try(?) to wear one. Keyword here is “try”. By try, I mean having it either loosely hung under their chins (chaotic evil) or having it tucked just under their nose (chaotic neutral – kind of evil, still). At one point you’ll even see some wearing them around their necks as if the face masks were good-luck mantras/totems. The point is, if you’re not going to wear one in the way it should be worn, you’re kind of defeating the purpose here and not to mention how weird it can look. To people who still wear masks like this, I included a little how-to guide on how to properly wear one. To anyone else wearing glasses like myself, I feel you. But I promise you, fogging up your lenses is still better than getting infected. Hey, if my 10 year old cousin can do it, so can you.

And of course, here’s one group of people I can never and will never want to try to understand.

The edgy baseless conspiracy theorists

You’ve maybe stumbled upon the weird conspiracy theories being spread on social media. Whatsapp chain messages about how face masks are used to “control” us? The implementation of 5G towers being linked with face masks? All the kind of baseless wacky shit someone somehow in your Facebook or Whatsapp family group chat continues to talk or share about every weekend.

All in all, everytime you stumble upon one of these baseless theories, please ask yourself if there really was any scientific truth behind it. Could the small metal strip on your facemask really act as a 5G “device”? I’d be amazed if it were, I’d use it as some kind of personal hotspot at one point. Okay but for real, just wear the damn face masks and stop giving this pandemic a sustainable momentum, please?

Several weeks ago, a number of Dutch celebrities received heavy criticism after they announced that they would no longer take part in public efforts to combat the Coronavirus spread. They also showed their apparent support for a conspiracy theory that suggests that the Dutch government was using fear of the COVID-19 virus to try and “control” the population. Using the hashtag #ikdoennietmeermee (“I no longer participate”), influencers started posting videos on social media saying they were no longer joining campaigns to promote social distancing and the use of face masks (WTF, right?). They did apologise a few weeks after, but the criticism was always going to come. In conclusion to that: Dear influencers, we’re all tired of the pandemic – get your shit together and use your “influence” to actual good.

The ones caught in the political aspects of things

Somehow, there is a political aspect of wearing or not wearing a facemask. It’s become a statement in certain groups of one’s support of a specific political point of view. In most countries, there’s been a confusion over the mixed signals the public is getting from medical experts, political leaders, public figures, etc. For example, mixed signals coming in the form of conflicting statements being made in parliament. Especially when you’ve got one side whose “leader” expresses disapproval on the use of face masks or the social distancing because it’s “exaggerated” and that people should “regain more freedom”.

To conclude, “mask-shaming” just won’t work

“Mask-shaming” videos have pretty much become a new feature of the pandemic. But it won’t really inspire people to change their minds. I recently read an article on The Atlantic by epidemiologist and professor at Harvard Medical School, Julia Marcus. The article pointed out that shaming people for not wearing face masks proves all but counterproductive. Instead, she recommends that we try to follow the example of how organizations distributed condoms during the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and make disposable masks easily available where they are most needed. Furthermore, she also suggested that it would probably help even more if we were to make face masks “cool”. I for one think it’s perfect – in the same way as how she points it out:

Anyways, that’s it for my super short rant into the complicated (shouldn’t be so complicated) relationship between face masks and people. Stay safe everyone! ❤

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