You have probably noticed by now that there is a worldwide pandemic going on. And you (hopefully) are aware of the fact that wearing a facemask (in a correct way) can protect you from catching and spreading the coronavirus. However, some people still believe they don’t have to wear masks. And the most shocking part? They are proud of it. To understand why people refuse to wear masks in public, I joined a few anti-masks Facebook groups where a lot of misinformation is being spread. Here is how it went.
On October 30th, I requested to join four anti-masks groups on Facebook. Some of the groups introduced themselves as the place “where those of us who think that the government has overstepped its authority in implementing mask laws […] and to share our experiences of being persecuted, ridiculed, name-called, or simply been denied entry for exercising our right not to wear a mask in public places or places of business”. Another one expressed: “We will not comply, we will not give in to the deep state demands that we wear muzzles. Liberals and cucks, leave the hall.” One said: “Spread truth, not masks. Please only join if you aren’t a dumb mask wearer. This group is for smart people only”.
After a few days, I finally got accepted to the groups. The first post I saw was the following: “How the hell can we trust the government when they’re the ones working to kill us? […] They are planning stuff to take us into FEMA camps. We need to get them accountable for the shit they create in order to create stasi and nazi occupation on free land and population control. Turn off CNN’s propaganda and Fox news”. As a side note, the conspiracy theory about FEMA camps dates back to the militia movement from the 1990s. It states that the US government plans to imprison its citizens in secret concentration camps. Another person wrote, “What about alcohol, what about HIV+ positive patients? Lots of things out there that can kill us and are dangerous, with very little to no regulation on them. You can still buy a flamethrower on Amazon, just saying”. Another member said, “I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve been struggling with coming up with a good response to someone who confronts me when I’m not wearing a mask.” This is interesting because there are simply no good reasons why you should avoid wearing a mask. In fact, there are only reasons that speak for wearing face masks. In general, members of these groups, which can range up to a few thousand, state that wearing masks does not help and is actively harming their health, which has been debunked months ago.
Wearing a mask is not only about protecting your own life, it is also about protecting somebody else’s.
One member wrote, “Even though the educated people around us accept their mental handcuffs, it is our duty to help our brothers ‘cause they have been trained to think these crazy things. After all, we are all in together, and we need each other at this point”. “We are all in it together and we need each other at this point” is absolutely correct. This is exactly why we need to social distance from our friends and families and why we need to wear masks. Wearing a mask is not only about protecting your own life; it is also about protecting somebody else’s.
Is Facebook actively doing something against Anti-Mask Groups?
The answer is a bit conspicuous. In July 2020, Facebook removed an anti-mask group with over 9.000 members. It is not new that misinformation can easily get shared on Social Media. A study from Avaaz in April 2020 revealed that over 100 pieces of misinformation context were shared over 1.7 million times and viewed an estimated 117 million times. Facebook has some anti-misinformation efforts; however, they are too slow in actually limiting the spread of lies. This month, Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube announced their partnership to combat future misinformation crises. Their framework will launch in January of 2021.
What you should actually do: wear masks.
While social media tycoons tackle COVID-19 misinformation, The most important thing you can do is stay away from rumors and conspiracy theories. Get your information from credible websites such as the WHO. Try to limit your social contacts as much as possible. Always think about the fact that it is going to be over soon; this isn’t forever. Please take care and always wear a mask, not only to protect yourself but also to protect others.
Cover: Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona