#Face masks are being blamed for a lot of things, chiefly about whether or not they work for covid-19. Is it possible they are also causing an increase in violence and social conflict, globally if not already in the US?
In the US at least it seems that violent crime such as murders has increased significantly this year. There has been an increase in group violence. It’s not just in the streets either. In looking at social conflict we have to include hostile conflicts on social media. That might have an even worse impact than physical violence. Who could argue that currently social conflicts haven’t been increased drastically by our interactions on the social media?
How would this rise in social conflict be accelerated? Let’s try masks for starters.
In the first place, you can’t see most of people’s faces and therefore you can’t see their facial expressions. That denies you from seeing their reactions and responses to you and others.
Secondly, they don’t see yours either. Both sides are being denied the information they need to assess reactions to personal and group interactions. Research shows how important facial expressions are to normal communication between people. We’re just not used to not having this vital information. It’s what keeps us all in check. Now its mostly gone. We’re being denied insights into others’ thinking, and we then react without this information, often unwisely, even brutally. Not good.
That’s not all. Once we’re all safely behind the concealment of our masks, we act differently. The masks give us some apparent protection from being identified. When we go out into society with the mask, our ID is usually unknown. There’s no doubt that for some people this can lead to antisocial behavior.
Is that why things are so often out of control now with protests? Why police are acting in the way they are? Do masks cause a breakdown in the social chains that protect us from each other? Once we are free from the chains that identify us, do we all act differently, to wit more antisocially?
The social media creates an environment where we’re already wearing metaphorical masks. When we argue online, we can’t see the facial expressions of our interlocutors, nor they ours. In effect the social media already provided a place where we can’t see the reactions of others in their facial expressions.
The social media also often make us feel invincible since we feel our identity is free from discovery. So, the social media already acts as if its mask less. The imposition of physical masks probably just makes things a whole lot worse.
I guess you could argue that people looking for trouble usually don’t wear masks. Maybe so, but mask-wearing introduces a different social context where some people don’t wear masks but have been influenced by a society where most people do. So, their behavior is changing anyway, this time from the influence of masks, even if they are not being worn.
Don’t read me as saying that we shouldn’t wear masks. It’s just an observation about how it might be changing our fundamental social behaviors.
Is mask-wearing leading to another pandemic, this time of violence and accelerated social conflict?
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