Here’s the truth: people crave community. It’s what Maslow enshrined as “belongingness”—just above food, water, and air. We’ve all been robbed of that feeling because we are isolated in our homes. And masks, as critical as they are in the fight against COVID-19, amplify that isolation.
Isolation—absence of belongingness—is why we’re clamoring to get back into even the most mundane places, as long as they’re outside our homes. You might hate work, but getting back to work still offers a change of scenery and a fresh variety of interactions.
No matter where we are, a mask is a barrier between us and others. It’s a symbol of our separateness, our isolation. I think this is why there’s such emotion right now around something as simple and beneficial to all as wearing a mask.
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When we wear masks, others can’t see when we smile at them. We can no longer smile at someone—we’re all just a pair of eyes with a blank space underneath. When 80% of human communication is non-verbal, mask-wearing—again—amplifies our isolation and undermines community and belongingness.
To overcome the separation of masks, focus on community.
So now, as people are venting frustrations publicly, privately, and even just internally, we can all find a way to defuse our anger through focused collaboration. What does that mean?
Basically, it’s finding productive work with others.
It’s not doing a puzzle alone or organizing the last closet in your house… for the third time.
It’s sending an email to three friends, colleagues, or even family members and asking them to help answer a question or solve a problem. It doesn’t have to be pandemic-related. It’s the act of working with others to solve a problem that provides focus and human interaction. By reaching out in this way, you begin the process of collaboration, reconnection, bonding, and belonging.
Look, we’re not giving up our liberty when we wear a mask. But some people DO feel like they’re giving up their humanity.
For all of us the solution is—and always will be—community.