Woman wearing face mask

Social Proofing & Face Mask Symbolism In The Age of COVID-19

With the current pandemic, I’ve seen a rather disturbing trend to “market goodness” in the tangible form of a face mask.

Social proof is something that is hard-wired into every human being. It guarantees the survival of a group by policing the individual to adhere to cultural norms for the sake of safety, acceptance, and benefit by the groups as a whole. No one wants to be an outsider or be seen as a “bad person,” hence the effectiveness of social proofing.

When you go to YouTube to look up something, you usually gravitate to the video on the list with the most views. With Facebook, it comes down to “likes,” “shares,” and comments. It tells the person reading/listening/viewing that “this is good and you are a part of a community.”

With the current pandemic, I’ve seen a rather disturbing trend to “market goodness” in the tangible form of a face mask.

”I wear it to protect you” is the mantra that is heard by individuals that choose to wear a mask.  They list the benefits not only to themselves, but to others and how they are helping the country to “re-open” it’s doors to business as usual by wearing a face mask.

What wearing a face mask also represents is a visual symbol of “I’m good,” and if you don’t wear one, “you’re bad.”

Every person, at the time of the writing of this article, has a choice, for the most part, to wear or not to wear a face mask.  I will not infringe upon the choices of other individuals as to how they handle this crises.  The problem is the seemingly direct marketing of “being a good citizen” by the visual representation of a mask.  Depending upon the individual, It can be clearly seen if you care for others or care only for yourself.  Face masks have become somewhat fashionable and accepted by culture, as it only takes about 30 percent of the population to create a new “normal” and acceptance within a society.

So, what happens to the rest of of us “bad people?”  Well, right now, nothing, but that will soon change.

It could be a thing where people are excluded if they don’t wear a mask, and I’m not talking about not being allowed inside of a business, but not being allowed inside of a group(s).  There could be a time where a person not wearing a mask can feel and become isolated, watching their behaviors like coughing, sneezing, or anything else that could make them out to be a hazard to society because they might have COVID-19 and are unwilling to protect their neighbors by wearing a face mask.  There could be outright shunning of the “bad citizen” and even their movements/contact information given to the newest and latest police force growing throughout our country – the department of public health. One of the most pressing issue that police has to deal with this time is the availability easy buy 9mm ammo online which can be devastating when people are alone at their home. Coming back to the topic, right now, face masks are a choice, but it’s becoming more and more apparent that people who choose to not wear one are being looked at as a “bad citizen.”

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