overly helpful people, rants

I was right…

Remember last week, when I wrote about the guy in Santee, California who went to his local grocery store while donning a KKK-esque hood and mask? In my post about him, I hypothesized that he was simply pissed off about having to wear a mask and decided to protest while still “technically” following the rules. Personally, I think his hood looks a lot like a dunce cap.

According to multiple news stories that were circulating yesterday, it looks like my assumption of what he was trying to do was correct. After he was questioned by local authorities about his decision to dress like a Klansman, the guy explained that he was angry about being told that he must wear a face mask in public, so he decided to rebel against the rules while still technically abiding by them. He told the police that the hood he wore was not intended to be a racial statement, saying “It was a mask, and it was stupid.” So the San Diego Sheriff’s Department has declined to press charges against him at this time.

I haven’t taken the time to look for many reactions to this decision. I’m sure a lot of people are still angry about it and think this guy should go to jail for wearing that hood to the grocery store. However, the Constitution still protects free speech, even speech that is considered hateful. According to the article I linked, the San Diego Sheriff’s Department offered this statement:

“The U.S. Supreme Court has said that ‘[s]peech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express the thought that we hate,'”

And, as distasteful as the man’s actions are, I am relieved to hear that he hasn’t been arrested. I think too many people are locked up as it is, particularly for non-violent crimes. This is a stressful time for everyone, and I completely understand why many people are frustrated, confused, scared, and angry by this “new normal”. I actually shudder to call it that. I hope this face mask requirement doesn’t become normal for the rest of my life, because I hate it. I also hate the “hall monitor” attitude and borderline hysteria it’s brought out in a lot of people, on either side of the argument.

Moreover, I think banning or restricting any facet of free speech or expression is a slippery slope that can lead to disastrous consequences. To be clear, I don’t have an issue with people facing consequences for making hateful statements, but I would not want to see actual laws passed to restrict speech or expression. As a writer, that would be deadly to my craft. (and I fully understand that some of my readers don’t take what I do seriously and don’t think of me as a writer… that’s fine with me, although I think some of you need to get a life)

Anyway… what that guy did was probably less horrible than what some other people are doing in the wake of being required to cover their mouths and noses. At least in his case, no one was injured and there was no property damaged. This morning, I read about two men trying to shop at a California Target store without face masks. A security guard tried to insist that they wear masks and they got into a fight with him, resulting in the guard’s left arm being broken. The maskless men are now facing felony battery charges.

I read another story this morning about a maskless guy at a 7 Eleven in Oakland Hills, California who become violent when he was asked to wear a mask. The 7 Eleven clerks refused to serve him and he stormed out of the store, kicking and shattering the glass door.

A Family Dollar security guard was fatally shot in Flint, Michigan, because he told a customer that her child needed to wear a face mask. The customer yelled at the guard, spat at him, and drove off. Twenty minutes later, the woman’s husband and adult son came to the store, confronted the security guard, and the adult son pulled out a weapon and killed the security guard.

There have been other incidences of violence… really too many to list in this post, although you can follow the link and find more stories of people losing their shit over what they deem government official overreach. It’s definitely distressing to see people toting their guns to state capitals, threatening and screaming at officials, and protesting against the face mask rules. I am certainly not a fan of the masks, and have stated more than once that I have my doubts that they are that effective. Nevertheless, I would never become violent over having to wear them, nor do I not comply with the rule. I simply stay home as much as possible. I figure nobody wants or needs to see me, anyway.

I feel very grateful to be in Germany for this crisis. Germans, from what I’ve seen so far, are pretty sensible about this situation. And even if sometimes Germans as a whole can be confrontational, they aren’t typically violent here. Even if someone came to blows over face masks, there are a lot fewer guns here anyway.

Americans are losing their damned minds on both sides of this debate. A couple of days ago, I read a very interesting op-ed about social distancing shamers. Personally, I agreed very much with what Amanda Hess wrote in her editorial for The New York Times. Against my better judgment, I read some of the comments for that piece. Granted, many people commenting are New Yorkers, and New York City, while being a very densely populated place, has also been hard hit by the virus. I can understand why many people there are “hardasses” about the masks. On the other hand, people don’t like being ordered around by busybodies, and the presence of the deadly coronavirus doesn’t change that.

As I was reading the comments for that post last night, I kept seeing the same shrill toned sentiments by a few people who defended their shaming and policing, claiming that the shaming will “save lives”. Personally, I disagree. In my experience, shaming doesn’t usually inspire people to want to comply with demands, particularly when the shaming comes from some shrill voiced pest. That technique probably works better in cultures in Asia, where people are much more community minded. Western cultures tend to value individualism and personal freedoms more, and people don’t like being told what to do, even by their leaders.

I don’t know about you, but when someone tries to shame me, my first emotions are almost always irritation and anger, not a desire to comply. But I’m reasonable enough that I do usually think about what the other person is saying and consider whether or not it has merit. Maybe I’ll change my behavior, but it’s more than likely I won’t. Why? Because I’m a competent adult who can think for herself. I’m more likely to tell the shamer to fuck off. At the very least, they’ll get a serious load of my bitch face, which I’m told by some is pretty devastating. (ha ha ha)

I wouldn’t dream of going up to someone I don’t know and berating them for not doing what I think they should be doing. For all I know, they have a good reason for not following the rules and their reasons probably aren’t any of my business. It’s not my place to call them out unless they’re doing something that directly affects me. If it’s something very serious, illegal, or dangerous, in most situations, I’ll call the police or someone else who has been designated as an authority figure. Otherwise, I’ll just give them a wide berth and go on about my business.

I’ve also noticed that some people think the masks must be on at all times, even if social distancing is entirely possible. The rules I’ve seen have specified that the masks are to be worn when social distancing isn’t possible– that means you can’t stay more than six feet apart from someone else. Some people have taken it upon themselves to shame people even if they’re totally able to be more than six feet away from others. They insist that they have the right because they’re “scared”. That seems like a very imbalanced view caused by hysteria. I, for one, don’t want hysterical people dictating what I can and can’t do, especially when their hysteria is entirely based on their own emotions. I prefer taking direction from people who aren’t hysterical and make rules based on science and facts, rather than fear.

In some of the comments on that article, people were relating stories about being screamed at for not wearing a mask in public when they were nowhere near anyone else. In one story, the shamer, confident in her “moral highground”, came up to a guy and started yelling at him, but she had her mask pulled down as she was doing it. The guy she was yelling at was not near anyone else and he was minding his own business. But she still felt entitled to yell at him because she was scared and was obviously feeling emboldened by her fear.

A year or two ago, people were calling out folks for being confrontational. Remember Barbecue Becky and Permit Patty? These were white women who felt okay about confronting people about what they were doing in public. And folks were all up in arms about that, mainly because the people being shamed were people of color and calling the police on people of color can be very dangerous or even deadly. People took it out on them by smearing them online and making them go viral.

But now, the same people who were angry about the confrontations of two years ago, are now okay with confronting people who don’t want to wear masks, even though the masks are probably much more about making other people feel better psychologically than actually controlling the spread of the virus. I suppose there’s value in placating the scared among us, but I hope it’s not something that will be expected for the rest of our lives. It’s bad enough that the virus has taken away people who were too young to die, and things that are wonderful like travel, good health, eating in restaurants, listening to choirs, brass bands, and woodwinds, and visiting friends and relatives in person. Do we have to turn into oppressive, insufferable assholes, too?

Like I said… I personally don’t really think the masks are that helpful, and while some people are comforted by seeing people wearing them, they give me the creeps. So I simply stay home. That way, not only do I avoid most people who can make me sick, I also avoid people who feel the need to lecture and harass others… as well as those who would resort to violence over being asked to wear a mask. I also don’t have to be reminded of how sad and hopeless life feels right now. I may change my mind as time goes on… and I feel very lucky that I’m not in the United States, where so many people do have guns, short tempers, and the unshakable idea that they’re in the right.


HYPER hyperbole… about last night…

Last night, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. I’ve never made it a secret that I don’t like “call out culture”. I’m not a fan of publicly shaming people, even when it seems like they did something egregiously wrong. On my old blog, I frequently posted about how much I despise the “let’s make this bitch go viral” posts.

The main reason why I don’t like those kinds of posts is because sometimes, people get their facts wrong or simply don’t have all the facts. I suspect a lot of people also make erroneous assumptions about people or try to “mind read”. But I also think it’s wrong because the bad behavior that gets caught on camera or social media or anywhere else is always just a fraction of a person’s life. And yet, when people go into public shaming mode, reputations and lives can be ruined. Your moment of outrage about someone else’s decision to go against the grain, and the subsequent decision to spread it on social media, can be personally devastating to another person.

I don’t believe there are very many truly evil, horrible people in the world. I believe they do exist, but I think most people are trying to do their best with what they can. Moreover, I also believe most people are competent and know what works best for them. Most people are capable of reading, and they have normal cognitive ability which makes them able to make their own choices. Personally, I resent people telling me what to do, especially when I know they aren’t any more informed than I am, and a lot of them are mostly getting their information from memes. I gather they wouldn’t like for me to lecture them about what they should or shouldn’t be doing, either.

After hours of seeing post after post about the COVID-19 pandemic and multiple pleas, expressions of disgust and outrage, accusations of selfishness, name calling, and outright bullying, I decided to post that I’m tired of the pandemic shaming. Not surprisingly, the post caught on fire. I got some defensive comments from people who wrote that they felt they had to “speak up” to their friends about the importance of wearing masks. I totally understand that rationale. I understand that people are scared and they think the masks are “common sense”.

I also understand being angry and frustrated by protesters who show up at their state capitals with guns and completely ignore social distancing and face mask guidelines. However… the people who are doing that are almost assuredly not going to be swayed by your indignant posts about how “stupid”, “ignorant”, and “moronic” they are, and the rest of us are going to eventually get fatigued by all the negativity and sanctimony. Besides, so many people are sharing that shit that it becomes overwhelming, particularly for those who have depression and anxiety when things are “normal”. I simply wanted to express another view, and remind people that while they certainly have the right to post whatever they want, they may not realize that those kinds of posts can be damaging in ways they hadn’t considered.

That was where I was last night. I actually cried yesterday. It’s been awhile since I last cried, because for some reason, I’m no longer able to do it with ease. When I was younger, I could cry on demand. That’s not so anymore, and as embarrassing as it was when I used to have regular meltdowns, I now miss having the ability to cry. It’s a good stress reliever and helps dissipate pent up negative energy and anger.

The constant barrage of shit on the Internet has become unbearable, and it makes me think the future is just going to suck. I start thinking that the people who have passed away are the lucky ones. I miss the days when we were totally unplugged, and could lick our wounds in private. Of course, it’s still possible to do that, but it’s not as easy as it was twenty or thirty years ago. Crying yesterday did help a little bit with the mounting stress and dread I’ve been feeling. There have been days when I’ve wondered if it’s worthwhile staying alive. Poor Bill doesn’t know what to say or do when I get like that. I have to tell him, which is upsetting for both of us.

THAT kind of thinking is disturbing and unhealthy. It’s not the kind of thing I can admit to out loud, either, because if I’m honest about how I feel, someone might panic and send the authorities to my house. I am not feeling suicidal. I am feeling like I wouldn’t be too upset if I just died and skipped the rest of this miserable existence. That’s what depression does to me. It’s not rational, nor is it something I’m proud of. But that’s how I feel.

I have also stated that I am not convinced the masks are that helpful. That does not mean that I won’t wear them when they are required. It does not mean that I discourage other people from wearing them. It does not even mean that I don’t see how they could be useful in certain situations, including living in high population density areas like New York City or Beijing, or any other Asian city where the masks have become part of the culture. It also doesn’t mean that I am UNINFORMED or willfully ignorant. I probably have had more education, experience, and training regarding disease transmission than a lot of people have. That’s what happens when you study public health in graduate school and work for the bureau of epidemiology; but you don’t need an MPH to come to the conclusions that I have about the utility of face masks.

I simply feel that the masks are more useful in placating the worried well, and making people feel better, and more empowered, than offering real protection from the virus. There is certainly value in that. And yes, maybe they stop balls of snot and saliva from escaping your mouth and nose and fouling the air. But they don’t stop vapors, aerosols, or people who continually touch their faces, reuse their masks, wear them improperly, and neglect to wash their hands. I have been staying HOME, which is probably better than wearing a mask. A lot of the people doing the shaming can’t even be bothered to read articles before they post reactions and comments to headlines. I’m supposed to take advice and lecturing from THEM?

Moreover, for some people, the masks are truly an imposition. In fact, in one of the German groups I’m in, a doctor posted this (in German):

Hello everyone,
I would like to address one thing that is very close to my heart:
I see people in my practice every day who are unable to wear mouth-nose protection due to their illness, e.g. patients with respiratory diseases such as asthma, COPD or pulmonary fibrosis. Patients with anxiety and panic attacks or muscle dystrophies cannot tolerate a breathing mask. Some patients are also physically unable to push a shopping cart for different reasons.
If you see these people shopping without protection or without a car, ask them politely why. Sometimes you still don’t get a corresponding answer, because these people are often embarrassed to give the reasons.
But this is no reason to denounce, scolding, or even physically attack these people. They are mostly very unsettled and anxious, they traumatized a humiliation.
Just stay calm and let them shop alone. One or the other without a mask will not change the overall result of the measure.
We citizens should not mutate into the police by ourselves either.

Thank you very much!!!

He makes a good point. It’s like what I started this post with, my comments about public shaming, attacking, insulting, and calling people out, especially when you don’t have all the facts, nor are they necessarily any of your business.

I know some people feel panicky and claustrophobic when they wear a face mask. I’ve seen some people say that those people ought to “suck it up” and get over it for the ten minutes they’re in a store. Maybe a lot of them can and should do that. And I’ve also seen people say that people who are unable to wear masks should have someone who can do their shopping. Maybe they should… Or maybe they don’t have anyone who can help them. Maybe they’re alone in the world. Perhaps they shouldn’t be expected to explain that to everyone who feels it’s their duty to confront them.

Last night, there was some drama on my Facebook page because I posted that I’m tired of pandemic shaming and lecturing… and it got kind of heated. After a few hours, the thread started to die down a bit. I was feeling somewhat better and about to go to bed. Suddenly, someone decided it was time to ignite things with a very strange, attention whorish comment that, to me, had zero to do with what we were discussing. She also granted me the “right” to unfollow her, as she insisted that for her, this had become “personal”. I don’t know what that comment was about. As if depression and anxiety aren’t personal for me.

I was going to let it slide, but then she jumped to another post about an unmasked woman who was arrested in Wal-Mart. The woman wasn’t arrested just because she lacked a face covering. She was arrested because she was being disorderly. There was a video that came with the article, which showed the officer throwing the woman to the ground to put handcuffs on her as her friend was screaming at people to record the incident. Those in attendance gasped audibly and in unison, which means they were shocked by the scene. For the record, I never posted anything about the woman’s “right” to go maskless. My first comment was, “Well, this sucks.” And it does suck on many levels. I don’t condone the way she was behaving, and I initially said nothing about her being maskless. I was, frankly, disturbed by the story and the video, and that was why I shared it. My mistake.

A friend of mine posted an angry, shaming rant about the scene. I thought his comments were over-the-top. So I posted, “She wasn’t arrested just because she wasn’t wearing a mask. She was also being disorderly. I would be very upset if this was how people who simply don’t wear a mask started being treated. That would be overkill, in my opinion.

The person who posted about how COVID-19 had become “personal” for her, then wrote, ”Simply Don’t Wear a Mask” wow. Bit stunned. These days, ‘simply not wearing a mask’ is an act of attempted murder.

Since it was her second outraged post on my page in less than five minutes, and she doesn’t, in fact, regularly comment on my stuff, I was pretty annoyed by what appeared to be blatant shit stirring. But she seemed a bit spun up by the business on my page, so I posted “If you are that triggered by my posts, I suggest you find somewhere else to hang out.” A comment comparing a lack of a face mask to “attempted murder” is a ridiculous, hyperbolic, shaming statement, and I found it very disrespectful, especially since she’d clearly been following my post about how sick I am of that kind of behavior.

Then, on second thought, I decided to unfriend her. Unfortunately, the guy who posted the initial shaming rant– who also seemed to be comparing me to a “protester”– then agreed with her that not wearing a mask is akin to “attempted murder”. I would suggest to both of these folks that they look up the legal definition of “attempted murder”.

According to US Legal, “in order for a person to be guilty of attempted murder, that person should have deliberately, intentionally or recklessly with extreme disregard for human life, attempted to kill someone. There should be some substantial step towards committing the crime.

At this point in time, not wearing a face mask is certainly not akin to attempted murder. The vast majority of people who are out in public are not COVID exposed, and most people who do get sick aren’t going to die. For instance, in Germany, there have been 171,000 confirmed cases. Of those, 138,000 people have recovered. So far, 7,589 people have died. Yes, it’s tragic that they died, but as you can plainly see, most people who have been infected have NOT died.

I got these results from good old Google.

Now, in the United States, things are different. This is what Google says about the USA.

But the United States is not like Germany in many important ways. Whether or not someone recovers has a lot to do with many different factors. Access to health care when it’s needed, overall health, age, sex, and luck have a lot to do with the overall results.

Not wearing a face mask isn’t like deliberately trying to run someone down with a car, throwing them off a ship into waters filled with sharks, or deliberately poisoning their food with arsenic. Maybe if COVID got really deadly for everyone who gets it, not wearing a mask would be more like manslaughter. If COVID-19 were a definite death sentence, I might even be onboard with a manslaughter conviction. But at this point, it’s not a certain death sentence, and those kinds of extreme, “over-the-top” comments are not helpful, nor are they appreciated, especially when I specifically explained that the shaming comments are upsetting to me. I get that people are going to post what they want to on their own pages, but when I expressly explain that I find that shit upsetting, it’s very disrespectful to continue doing it anyway on MY page.

So… to those who are reading this because they want to know WTF, here’s the deal. I have decided that I’ve had enough bullshit from people. For my own good, I have to take better control, not just avoiding COVID exposure by staying home, but also by avoiding people who deliberately try to upset me and stir up drama with COVID hysteria online. This is a tough situation for everybody, and people have the right to their opinions and views. People also have the right to avoid the negative shit. That’s why I’ve started filtering more and will probably get rid of the worst offenders. It doesn’t mean I’m in an echo chamber or denying facts. I’m quite well informed, thank you, and I know where to find advice by people who haven’t been educated solely by the media, Facebook, or memes. And if you’re a real friend, you’ll understand and respect that.

condescending twatbags, rants

Pandemic shaming… it’s gotten out of hand.

Lately, I’ve noticed a lot of people lecturing others about what they should or should not be doing. I suppose it’s only natural, since so many of us are at home, bored out of our skulls. Yesterday, I noticed several of my friends posting yet more pleas to others to make sure they follow all the pandemic rules. I get why some of them are doing it. COVID-19 is very scary. People are getting very sick and sometimes dying, and being stuck at home SUCKS. We all want life to get back to normal, and posting a clever pandemic themed meme or a heartfelt Facebook post makes it feel like we’re doing something constructive.

However, when every other friend is posting about the importance of social distancing and wearing face masks, social media quickly becomes a source of frustration and irritation. Frankly, a lot of the information being shared by well-meaning people isn’t entirely accurate. I’ve started to hide posts and unfollow the worst offenders, because mainly, I don’t need the extra stress or aggravation. I am capable of reading up on what the experts say I should be doing. So are you. It’s gotten to the point at which I’m starting to view pandemic shamers as being akin to Trump supporters.

Last night, I found an interesting op-ed on The New York Times entitled “The Seductive Appeal of Pandemic Shaming”. I mostly agreed with what the author, Jennifer Weiner, wrote. The only thing I didn’t like was that she decided to use the trendy pejorative “Karen” to describe angsty, middle-aged, white women who seem to be the worst “pandemic shaming” offenders right now. As regular readers might remember, I kind of hate the recent trend of co-opting perfectly good names like Karen, Becky, Chad, and Susan to put other people down. However, overall, I liked Weiner’s message to the masses. She writes:

...posting pictures of non-compliers on social media, or calling them out to their faces, is unlikely to help. It might even make things worse. And it comes with risks to groups who are already suffering more than most from the virus and its effects.

She continues with a quote from Damon Young, author of “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker,” who has seen a lot of people calling other people out for not following the rules.

I understand the compulsion” to call people out, Young said. “But is it really helping? If what you’re doing is supposed to be about saving lives, is this actually doing it?”

Frankly, I don’t think it does help very much. What it mostly seems to do is piss people off and make the situation worse. I was reading the Duggar Family News group this morning and someone posted about how Jill Duggar Dillard posted on Instagram about how she and her husband, Derick, went to visit Derick’s family. As Duggar followers know, Jill and Derick, like most of the rest of the Duggar family, live in Arkansas. According to group members in the know, Arkansas has not enacted a “stay at home” order, nor is wearing face masks in public currently a requirement there.

Jill and Derick went to see his mother and stepfather and did not wear masks or practice “social distancing”. Derick’s mother, Cathy, has some significant health issues, which were documented on the Duggar family’s reality shows before Jill and Derick fell out with The Learning Channel and Jim Bob Duggar. Lots of posters were going off about how *wrong* and irresponsible it is that Jill and Derick didn’t wear masks and gloves… or that they visited his family in the first place. As I read shaming response after more outraged and shaming response, I was suddenly reminded of an angry hive… a somewhat timely image, as I read about the murderous hornets that are now in the news. And then I took note of this exchange:

Notice the overall tone of these posts. It’s kind of aggressive. The hand-wringing face mask crusaders are doing their best to shame the holdout into seeing their view. But are they changing her mind? Not really. As you can see, she gets more and more hostile. I doubt she’ll be donning a face mask due to these people– perfect strangers who don’t know or care about her– piling on her on social media. And I’ll bet there were a lot of people reading who silently agreed with the original poster. Most adults like to think of themselves as able to take care of themselves without “special help”, especially in the United States– “land of the free”.

After I read this post, I thought of another quote from Weiner’s op-ed, which came from Syon Bhanot, a behavioral economist who teaches at Swarthmore. Does calling people out online for their “misbehavior” actually make the situation better? Does it save lives? Bhanot says that when you point out misbehavior online,

“you’re not confronting it — you’re virtue-signaling.” And confronting wrongdoers in person “is not going to be motivationally effective,” he added. “Shaming creates defensiveness. It doesn’t persuade, it entrenches.”

Makes perfect sense to me, especially when you look at the exchange I read in the Duggar Family News group. Neither side was backing down. The conflict was getting worse. The mood was getting uglier. And I wondered if that made things better in the already difficult situation we’re all having to weather right now. Bhanot says that instead of personally calling out “wrongdoers”, it’s better to appeal to the authorities and ask them to handle it on an organizational level. I would also add that sometimes there’s something going on that you don’t know about and is none of your business. One astute German in a local Facebook group posted that someone you see in public who is not wearing a mask might have a medical problem that makes mask wearing difficult or impossible. I think it’s better to just give those people a wide berth rather than berating them.

I was still thinking about the subject of pandemic shaming last night, so I did more Googling and found an article on The Guardian by Poppy Noor about shaming that is going on in the United Kingdom. Noor writes that a few weeks ago, journalist Amelia Gentleman tweeted a photo of an apartment building where someone had posted huge posters shaming a neighbor for not socially distancing. The disgruntled neighbor was perturbed because “Ann” had been having people over and when she was asked to stop having company, refused to comply. So Ann’s neighbor decided to publicly shame her with the posters… which anyone passing could see, but as you can now see, has been picked up by the news.

Noor writes that most social distance and face mask shamers are simply trying to do the right thing. They see someone out and about with no mask on and feel the need to call them out, reminding them that they could be spreading the virus. But what if that person is a nurse or a grocery store clerk on the way to work? What if it’s someone making sure an elderly family member is getting food or medication? What if the person not wearing the mask has severe lung disease or anxiety and can’t wear the mask without panicking? And why is it any of your fucking business? Especially since, if you’re seeing these folks out and about, you’re probably out and about yourself. No one needs to be reminded about the coronavirus right now, anyway. I was actually kind of happy to read about the killer hornets yesterday, because it was a diversion from the 24-7 chatter about the virus… and Donald Trump’s moronic handling of the situation.

Personally, I haven’t had much of a problem staying holed up in the house. I seem to have a low need for socializing with people other than Bill and our dog, Arran. Not everyone is like me, though, and some people are starting to go a little crazy, especially as the weather improves. Some people want to go sit on the beach or play basketball because it’s good for their mental health. Mental health is also important. Without it, people become hopeless and despondent. They start drinking too much booze and entertaining thoughts of suicide. So I’m inclined to give people a break… and a wide berth when I see them outside with or without a mask. As Noor points out,

Take the case of a friend’s mother, who was recently reported to the police for making too many trips outside. She, in fact, was dropping off supplies to people who were sick and in isolation. Now she might feel less inclined to do so – but who cares, so long as whoever dobbed her in gets to post on social media about it?

Too much of that kind of thing will also cause people to be paranoid. I read another account of a couple in Australia who were fined because they were reported for posting pictures of themselves doing “non-essential” travel. But then it turned out that the photos were taken months before the coronavirus struck. From the article:

The husband and wife were fined the equivalent of $1,000 each by state police for “going for a drive to Lakes Entrance,” which was deemed a violation of the country’s strict lockdown.

The couple was warned that if they “posted any more photos,” they would “be arrested,”

The cops revoked the fine once it became clear that the pictures were a year old, although the wife had to contact the media to get the police to drop the citation. But that led people to wonder if the police were Facebook stalking the populace, looking for people to nab. Who turned them in to the authorities, anyway? That is a rather uncomfortable thing, isn’t it? Might make one not want to do much posting on social media or sharing of photos if it means the cops will show up on your doorstep with a citation, especially when they don’t have all the facts. It’s creepy as hell, too.

The police should have more important things to do than investigate this kind of thing. It’s a pretty shitty thing to do to someone during these stressful times, particularly if you don’t have all the facts. If someone is genuinely breaking the rules and actually causing trouble for you, that’s one thing– it’s appropriate to call the police in that case. But snitching on people who aren’t personally affecting you or calling them out based on erroneous assumptions is ugly behavior that causes more problems than it solves.

I did have one friend who wrote that she was upset about some things she’d been seeing. Even here in Germany, some folks are protesting. They aren’t bringing massive weapons like they do in the United States, but they are coming out en masse to complain about the measures enacted to slow the spread of the virus. Also, some people are defiantly throwing parties. I don’t have a problem with calling the authorities when something like that is happening that affects someone personally. But the group shaming, online nannying and nagging, and bold confrontations of strangers is counterproductive. Most people don’t react well when they’re shamed and policed by ordinary citizens, especially when the shamers are total strangers on the Internet. All it does is make them defensive and defiant.

So, at the risk of sounding preachy myself, knock it off, please. Live your life and do your part to stay healthy. Hopefully, your neighbors and the strangers on the Internet will do the same.