Face mask activism is continuing apace on Facebook and other social media platforms. Most recently, it’s become increasingly popular for people to post memes that say, “Wear a damn mask.” How do you feel when you see that meme? I know how I feel. When I see that meme, I feel aggressive, irritated, offended, and rebellious in response. I want to tell off the person who posted it. And I feel this way, even though I do wear the mask and accept that they might be helpful… not because I am convinced they will save mankind, but because they are required and I don’t enjoy being harassed.
It’s easier to wear a mask and get in and out of whatever needs doing in public, and then go home, than deal with aggressive, obnoxious, overbearing people who lack basic manners. But it sure doesn’t make me feel very good about living. In fact, it makes me wonder if it’s worthwhile to stick around this shithole of a planet. I mean, if this is the way people are going to be from now on, why bother?
I want to ask the people who post these memes if that’s really how they speak to their friends and family. Do they immediately swear at them and make demands? Do they really do this to strangers offline? If we were to meet offline, would this person snarl, “Wear a damn mask!” at me? That’s kind of the effect one gets, looking at those memes. They’re aggressive and off-putting. But then, people seem to be unusually aggressive and unpleasant lately.
I probably have this opinion mostly because I read comments. Judging by comments on social media, most people really are assholes and they lack the ability to have a respectful conversation with other people with different perspectives. Even so-called reporters of local news are becoming assholes. Case in point… this article shared on a site called Mission Local, which is apparently a San Franciscan news source. Writer Joe Eskenazi’s title is “Just wear a damn mask — and focus your anger where it belongs”. When I read that headline, I immediately feel angry and rebellious. I picture myself crossing my arms and telling Joe to go fuck himself. When you come at me with aggression, I want to respond in kind… and I’m basically compliant about masks. Imagine how the people who resolutely refuse to wear them feel about this approach. It probably makes them angry, too, and doesn’t actually inspire them to comply.
I did read the comments on Joe’s piece, though, and there was one person whose comments I agree with wholeheartedly. I thought the person was basically respectful and he made sense. However, Joe’s responses to him were rude and dismissive. Have a look:
Other commenters wrote this:
I think people on both sides of this issue have a right to be upset and angry about what’s happened over the past few months. I also think people have the right to be heard and responded to in a respectful manner. Ordering someone to wear the “goddamn mask” is not respectful or kind, and it begs a similar response in retort. When people are unnecessarily rude and aggressive to me, I am often tempted to respond that way myself. Fortunately, I usually stop myself before I go there. I don’t enjoy fighting with people, and the vast majority of people who are virtue signaling with this crap aren’t worth the effort, anyway.
I get that people are scared and frustrated. If I were in the United States, dealing with all of the craziness that is going on there, I might feel very differently about this issue. In fact, I might even be on the “wear the damn mask” bandwagon. But I’m not, and frankly these kinds of posts just make me feel berated, belittled, and like I’d rather not live anymore. That is a hallmark of depression, and depression is a serious but under addressed issue right now. The experts are starting to recognize that depression and COVID is a real thing. When I typed those search terms into Google, this is what came up:
I read an interesting article about depression and COVID on The Atlantic. The author, James Hamblin, cited the case of one man who had closed down his acupuncture clinic and immediately suffered for it mentally. Falcone, the man Hamblin cited said, “I went into a pretty instant depression when I realized that my actual purpose was disintegrating. I’ve lost faith in myself. I don’t know if I can actually justify taking up space and resources.” I’ve actually felt this way myself for a good portion of my lifetime, so I really related.
Hamblin, who is a physician, lecturer at Yale Medical School, and a staff writer at The Atlantic, wrote:
After I confirmed with Falcone that he had no intent to harm himself, I recommended that he seek medical help. But given the unprecedented circumstances we’re all in, I’m not sure whether I under- or overreacted—or even what “help” should look like, exactly. The pandemic is a moment of historic loss: unemployment, isolation, stasis, financial devastation, medical suffering, and hundreds of thousands of deaths globally. Suddenly droves of people are being thrown into a state like Falcone’s, feeling lost, hopeless—in his words, “depressed.”
People have a lot of reasons to feel depressed and hopeless right now. Maybe that’s why people are being so aggressive and uncivilized about the issue of face masks. I’m seeing a lot of people who seem extreme on either side of this issue. This morning, there was a post– one of those annoying ones done on a background with stethoscopes– declaring that face masks will soon be legally mandated, like seatbelts, and implying that they should be. Against my better judgment, I posted that I hoped not, since I am counting on these measures being temporary. The poster came back and reiterated that the masks are like seatbelts. But they aren’t, really. It has always been dangerous to ride in a vehicle without a seatbelt. Not wearing a face mask has only been an issue for a few months so far. Moreover, it took many years to get the majority of people to wear seatbelts. If that ever happens with face masks, I hope I’m already long dead. I’ll probably become a permanent shut in.
I do not want to think of the rest of my life being like this. And my reality isn’t even all that bad. There are many people who have it much worse than I ever will. But this is not a pleasant way to live… and I wonder what the point is. Especially if the virus is here to stay and we’re probably all going to be exposed to it eventually, whether or not we’re wearing the “goddamn masks”.
We’re all in this together, and it’s better to try to be kind and empathetic than hostile and aggressive. Being rude, dismissive, discounting, and profane to perfect strangers just to get your point across is not likely to be met with success. I’m beginning to think that my “friends” who repeatedly post this kind of stuff maybe shouldn’t be my friends anymore.