Keep Your Virtue Signalling To Yourself

Covid Virtue Signalling

If you are active on social media, you have likely been faced with this message, and if you are an asshole, you may have posted the message yourself.  For those who are not aware, this sort of post is an example of virtue signalling, a way of positing yourself as morally superior to those who disagree with you that contains all kinds of unexamined contradictions and assumptions that the person posting likely does not think about but which the people reading it do think about a lot to the extent that they disagree with and understandably resent the accusations being made about people.  There are a great many people who wonder why it is that contemporary conditions lead to such animosity between people who might otherwise consider themselves very similar, this sort of post is a clear example of why this happens.  At this point in the Covid-crisis, you know where you stand on whether you think it to be an existential threat to humanity or at least your own life, or whether you consider it to be overrated and not nearly worth the hypocritical and double-dealing efforts that have been taken against it.  One thing that does not tend to happen, though, is the willingness to recognize that the people who disagree with one’s position have quite logical and reasonable (if not always accurate) reasons for why they feel as they do.

If you post this message knowing (as you probably do) that a substantial portion of your friends, family, and neighbors disagree with you, you are not behaving in a loving and kind and reasonable manner.  This post may appear to you to be obvious and objective truth.  Of course you are humble and kind and care about your community for putting on a mask in a time of pandemic.  How could anyone disagree with such moderate and obvious expressions of truth?  Guess what, you’re wrong.  First off, however humble someone may think they are for wearing a mask and sacrificing some degree of their own convenience as well as their own respiratory processes to do something that they believe will help others–which may not, in fact, have any positive benefits for oneself or others–a person bragging about how humble they are for doing something that they consider to be righteous but may in fact be self-righteous (and will be taken as self-righteous by those who feel and think differently) is by definition not humble.  Thus the very presence of a post like this marks the person who makes this kind of social media comment as a liar and a self-righteous jerk at a bare minimum, aside from the merits of the case being presented.

Let us note the second comment, which comments on the sensitivity that the poster claims to have for those who are sick and vulnerable in the face of Covid-19.  As a point of fact, unless one is sneezing or coughing, following principles of social distancing should make it rather redundant and pointless to wear a mask.  Unless you are crowding other people, in which case you are not being sensitive to their well-being, simply staying six feet away from them, mask or no mask will show respect for the well-being of others.  Still, people like to feel good at themselves and if wearing a mask makes you feel better about yourself in these times, you do you.  We all need a placebo effect sometimes and to do things that aren’t strictly necessary to feel better about ourselves and to feel like we are doing something about the problems we deal with in our present time.  Most of those things tend to be obnoxious to others who feel differently, but I don’t think that most people are really interested in dragging on others who wear a mask, those who religiously believe in wearing masks are often those who try to make others feel as if they don’t care about others for not wearing them.  Whether or not this blaming is intentional, that is what people who oppose mandates to wear masks feel when seeing this sort of message.  If you don’t mean that, stop saying it.

And that is where we come to this last bit.  There is an unwarranted and unexamined assumption here about Covid being particularly dangerous to most of the people who have it which seems to disregard the huge amount of asymptomatic cases and the way that nearly all of the people who die of the disease tend to have complicating factors that exacerbate the disease or happen to be far older than the sort of people one is going to see at a restaurant, a concert, or the grocery store.  To be sure, there are a lot of elderly people as well as people with somewhat dubious health that one would see at church, and if it comes to the point that churches open up while there is still concern over the disease I don’t think it would be a bad thing to ask people to wear masks if it makes those people who feel particularly vulnerable feel a bit safer.  Still, those aren’t the usual sort of occasions that people will find in the course of their lives if they are busy working.  The concern for communities thriving if people wear masks only makes sense if people make the assumption that masks make people safer, which is a rather tenuous idea to begin with, subject to a lot of made-up statistics.  One could alternately support a community thriving by seeking to protect the vulnerable and then letting everyone else get herd immunity through exposure and likely asymptomatic illness experience and not seeking to close business at all because of unwarranted public health panics.

In general, what we may say is that social media seldom provides the best opportunity for people to either examine their own assumptions or to understand how it is that their expression of baldly stated and poorly worded humblebrags may not come off very well to other people.  Whether or not the assumption is consciously made, those who view wearing facemasks as effective means of preserving public health tend to look down on those who disagree.  Indeed, there are good reasons why the requirement of facemasks is both ineffective in dealing with those who are symptomatic with Covid as well as worthless for those who are not, and that it may lead to the proliferation of bacteria as well as a hindrance to the breathing of many people.  In short, there are reasons why some people would wear masks because of their situation and a belief that they are doing something self-protective, and why others would find it offensive to be asked or demanded to do so.  And without more nuanced conversation and an attitude of respect and concern for where others are coming from, our efforts at bragging about our own thoughtfulness are likely to come off poorly to others in an atmosphere where conflict is already intensely heated.  So, if you have two brain cells in your head to rub together and do not want to be thought of as a massive jerk, don’t make posts like the visual at the beginning of this entry.  You can do better, mainly by keeping your virtue signalling to yourself, on this and every other subject.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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