The New Normal: Masks as Part of a Post-Pandemic Future
Six months ago, seeing someone wearing a mask in a supermarket would have been an unusual sight. Today, amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, seeing someone without one is. Though mask-wearing has become a pretty commonplace practice in other cultures, under regular circumstances it is still widely viewed as taboo by most Americans. However, here at MODMASK, we believe that the Covid-19 pandemic may be a turning point in the cultural attitude towards mask-wearing in America.
Historically speaking, the spread of a major illness has been the main catalyst behind changing cultural views of mask-wearing in other countries. Many who live in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan consider the SARS epidemic of the early 2000s to be the turning point for destigmatizing mask-wearing in everyday life. The interesting thing is that after these illnesses had passed, mask-wearing continued to be an accepted part of daily living. Beyond just preventing the spread of illness, mask-wearing has now become popular for a number of other everyday uses in these countries. Here at MODMASK, we really think they’re onto something. To prove our point, we’ve compiled a list of some popular alternative uses for masks.
- Filtering out pollution. Though fabric masks will not filter out all the particles in polluted air, many people wear them as an easy way to limit the amount of harmful particles being breathed in. People also wear masks when riding open-air transportation like motorcycles or bikes to help limit the amount of exhaust they breathe in from passing cars.
- Providing a little extra warmth. On a cold day, having a comfy, cozy mask to cover your nose and cheeks might be just the thing you need to take the edge off.
- Sun protection! Wearing a fabric mask is a simple way to decrease the amount of sun your face is exposed to, protecting the sensitive skin on your cheeks, lips, and nose that often receives the most UV damage.
- The perfect lazy day solution. According to some Japanese women, wearing a mask is the perfect solution for days you don’t have the time to put on makeup or just don’t feel like doing it.
- A new way to accessorize. Black purse, black mask. Blue belt? Blue mask. We’ve found the perfect way to go from thrown together to put together in one simple step.
- A way to stay anonymous. Some people claim that wearing a mask offers a convenient way to avoid those awkward run-ins with people you really don’t feel like talking to...
Experts say the reason mask-wearing was so readily adopted in many Asian countries is not only because of these handy everyday uses, but also because of the cultural emphasis many of these countries place on caring for one's community. Today, many people in Asian countries wear masks even when they just have common illnesses as a courtesy to those around them and view this practice with a sense of civic duty. America is known for its individualism—and sometimes that perspective is what has driven us to accomplish great things! Yet, at the same time, that perspective can also make us less community-minded. At MODMASK we believe that wearing masks to serve and protect those around us—during these pandemic times as well as in the future—can help remind us as a nation of the importance of caring for others. Symbolically, wearing a mask offers a great visual reminder that each of us can play a part in caring for our community.
So what are some practical ways we can help change how wearing a mask is viewed in America? One way is in how we choose to talk about wearing a mask. If others complain about the inconvenience or discomfort of wearing their mask, we can remind them that they’re serving others around them by doing it. (We also recommend sending them the link to our website so they can find a mask that they won’t mind putting on so much.) Another way to help destigmatize masks is to simply wear them, even when no one else is. Once the threat of the virus begins to diminish, this will be especially impactful. Even if it feels a little awkward, try wearing a mask when you have a common cold. If someone asks why you’re wearing it, you can tell them it’s to protect them and others. What can they say to that other than “thanks”? A final way you can take up the cause can simply be choosing to wear a comfortable—perhaps even fashionable—mask, (like a MODMASK!), to break down the stigma surrounding masks as something worn strictly for medical purposes.
Our hope is that together we can create a culture that looks beyond the simple act of wearing a mask and instead sees an opportunity to serve the greater good of their community.
Written by Rachel Cassar
MODMASK Content Writer