Masks are dehumanizing

I'm in a Facebook group which is solely about not requiring masks in order to buy or sell. I've tried hard to keep it from being political, but to simply talk about the freedom to wear/not wear masks, find alternatives to stores that force you to, talk about experiences (often confrontational) had when not wearing a mask in a store, and other related topics.

I've actually enjoyed the interaction.

One woman shared how, while in a store surrounded by everyone wearing masks, a child in a shopping cart seemed fixated on her face which was not covered by a mask.

"Masks can have a dehumanizing effect. I don't think we realize how kids process seeing masked people everywhere," I said. With how protective and "mama" bear people are with their kids, I'm struggling to understand the demand to wear them as opposed to not. I can't imagine what it would be like to be a little kid in elementary school starting what should be an exciting year of school and instead told to not touch others, to stay away, to have plastic barriers and hand sanitizer and getting scolded for simply being a child and to see all the faces around me covered. I'd have found it upsetting and stressful.

Obsession with alleged physical safety without as much concern for emotional and mental safety is the pandemic.

Of course, the standard answer is "if your child is dead it doesn't matter" which is an extreme, particularly during this pandemic in which the virus has such a statistically low mortality rate on children (contrary to many flu viruses) that it's a decimal with piles of zeros after it.

The mask thing is dehumanizing.

The child in that shopping cart knew it instinctively. She searched for the full human face among a sea of spooks.

Calling it a face burqa may be offensive to some, but what has always stunned me is how a burqa removes the identiy of a person. There is a reason people who rob banks wear masks.

Of course, there's a woke and safe response to everything. I saw one local person respond to a comment of such comparison to a burqa by saying "yes but the women in the Middle East have a low infection rate with COVID so maybe the joke's on us" and I thought, wow. First, no account taken on how they are kept at home and away from people, and then here we have it, the beginnings of the justification of hiding, controlling, and subduing a person for their "safety." People have become so obsessed with the number of positive cases that they are shedding every other concern without much thought.

Let's clear the air on one thing: saying that you have to wear a face mask all day for your profession is not a proof of why it is no big deal for the general public to do so. 

We are talking the mass populace walking around with only their eyes showing the moment they leave the house, doing all kinds of work or attempts at relaxation or exercise while wearing them. Every nurse that chimes in to argue "suck it up buttercup, I have to wear one for work all the time" neglects to understand that a) that is their chosen profession, b) they don't have to wear one to buy and sell, c) I doubt they wear one from the moment they leave their home the whole day, the same mask, all the way back to their house, and d) they wear one in a medical environment which is very different than wearing one while buying bread and cereal. It's not the same, and they know it. It's a facetious argument that has little application to the real discussion other than the fact we're talking about the same physical object (the mask).

How is prolonged wear of a face mask the same as a burqa? How does it affect your identity?

While it's great for messing with security cameras and facial recognition, that is solely about your relationship with a camera and computer. It doesn't account for your relationship with other human beings, and that is what we're talking about. Ironically, fooling the digital overlords that want to turn us from humans into identifiable digital algorithms isn't the win we think it is, because by doing so, we're still removing our humanity.

Dehumanizing means you strip away what it means to be human.

You know how online conversation is kind of a fail? Just a few days ago I had someone indicate they thought my written reply was indicative of being attacked. Short of filling it with emoticons, I don't know how else to write in which I can steer the person towards the real intention. If I smiled as I wrote, would that come through in the same words? It wouldn't. As I noted, I was only replying as I normally would, and wasn't sure how else to have replied. 

Emoticons, then, are the digital way of trying to insert emotion into our communication online, because without it, the reader injects their own assumption into the "tone" of your response. In person, we do that with facial expressions and tone of voice. Guess what happens when you wear a mask?

You can't see the face. Like a burqa.

You can only hear muffled voices. At the store, my friend gets so annoyed because clerks are behind masks behind plexiglass and they are barely understandable. Half the time they end up pulling down their mask or tilting their head around the plexiglass to be heard. 

Faceless, voiceless. Meat with an IQ and little more.

What we end up doing, when we can't see people's faces or hear them, is avoid people, avoid unnecessary communication, and start to feel a sense of wariness. I realize I unconsciously assume people with masks want me to avoid them in all ways, so I avoid looking at or connecting with them unless I am purposeful to be a human to masked humans. I don't think you realize how much you rely on the visual cues of facial expression until you're surrounded by people with their face covered in cloth. It is unnerving, unsettling, and has a cumulative effect over time. Combine that with many having just come out of forced isolation in their homes, and we have a seriously maligned population.

Faceless people are a horror. We are horrified when the face is injured. When there is no face, we don't know where to look or how to talk.

Maybe you're doing OK if you're like me and are limping along with the help of pareidolia, seeing faces in clouds and tree bark and tiles (even wrote about that in one of my books). Maybe you've started talking to inanimate objects after months of "social distancing" and lockdowns and now, covered faces. Heck, in the name of safety, we've turned our lives into desert islands with everyone in search of a volleball named Wilson to call their own.

What I miss most, when I'm in a store where the people are wearing masks and maybe proud of how safe they are being, is that no one is smiling. 

They might be, but I won't know if it's behind a mask. 

If you haven't heard of the Duchenne smile, take some time to read about it. It's fascinating, and it is nearly obliterated by masks. Throw in people wearing sunglasses with their mask pulled up under the nose bridge to avoid fogging their glasses, and you have zero facial features.

Duchenne smiles are smiles of pure joy, where your eyes crinkle up. 

Smiles impact your own emotional health, and they are "contagious" in that others who see these kinds of facial expressions pick up the cue and have their mood impacted positively. Happy faces do positive internal work in those wearing them, and in those seeing them. Proverbs 17:22 tells us that a merry and happy heart works like a good medicine (which science is discovering is true), while a broken and crushed spirit "dries up the bones." Proverbs 15:13 tells us that a glad heart makes a happy face, but a sorrowful heart crushes your spirit.

Happiness is a contributor to physical health. Happiness shows up on our face. What others see on our face can ignite the same thing in them. We could, if we smiled and exhibited happiness and others saw it, be spreading tiny bits of good health. If there was ever a time we needed smiles and contagious good moods, it's now. 

But we covered that up with masks.

And we're spreading guilt, shame, and accusation instead.

This is because the whole mask issue has become wrought with fighting words after half a year of isolation and fear, and smiles aren't around as much as they might be. Some people in the Facebook group I mentioned have shared ugly stories of store managers and other customers confronting, berating, and humiliating them for not wearing a mask.  Here in Bismarck, at the Sam's Club, or at Tractor Supply Company. 

This is happening. 

Those who think everyone should wear a mask are pleased with that behavior. I see it justified online as appropriate if it gets everyone to wear a mask. You deserve that, they say, because you won't wear a mask.

It is fed by those who insist you must comply. They are using every emotional technique they can to get you to comply. So not only are masks dehumanizing, but the efforts to get people to wear them are, too.

A smile showing teeth is depicted as bad.


It's been a while since I've been in to my dentist to have my teeth sharpened, but sure. Me not wearing a mask is an indicator being a psycho, while folks with half-shaved heads of purple hair throwing Molotov cocktails at government buildings are mentally solid.

The year 2020 is the year of Isaiah 5:20, in which we are calling good evil, and pushing evil as good.

It's brutal, it's destructive, and it's damaging not only the internal happiness and joy that would serve good health, but actually increasing the opposite. 

If you see me in the store, I will try to make eye contact and smile. I won't be wearing a mask. You'll see it. Pass it on.

+++

UPDATE SEPT 17, 2020: Interesting article on the psychological impact of so much mask-wearing found here. Some excerpts:

He wrote: “The human face plays an important role in much of our communication and interaction. 

“We’ve even evolved dedicated brain regions for recognising faces. So, obscuring half of it won’t go unnoticed.

“As some have pointed out, until recently, covering the face was generally treated with much suspicion.

[...]

“Studies into bike helmets, another head-covering garment intended to reduce hazards to health, have shown that wearing them can often make people take more risks.

“Would regular mask-wearing lead to people taking the risks of COVID-19 less seriously? That’s far from guaranteed. 

“Masks are a very different thing to helmets, and are perceived differently, but it’s something to keep an eye on.” 

However, the leading scientist believes one of the biggest impacts could come from a lack of facial expressions provoking hostility. 

He added: “One obvious concern about masks is the effect they have on communication. 

[...]

“As stated, our faces play a big role in how we communicate, and masks undeniably obscure it. This causes issues for both the communicator and the receiver.

“We could end up with people displaying some mild version of the disinhibition effect, usually seen online when people can communicate anonymously, and subsequently show a lack of restraint and concern for who they’re talking to, which is why the internet can seem so hostile. 

“Admittedly, it’s somewhat far-fetched to expect people to suddenly abandon all social norms when talking to someone, just because they can’t see part of the person’s face.

“But then, studies into people with facial paralysis show that others do tend to perceive them more negatively. Not being able to read people’s facial expressions seems to make us more wary, more suspicious.”

Comments