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The Shameful COVID-Shamers

I've been careful during the past year, or so I tell myself. I've followed the health safety guidelines, and have avoided restaurants, crowded indoor areas, and have worked from my home office the entire time. As much as I hated the necessity of masks, the science was too clear to ignore, and so I begrudgingly wore one to avoid giving people a virus that could kill them.

For the most part, I kept to myself about people who viewed the last year differently, but was absolutely frustrated with people who didn't seem to think the virus was a serious threat to public health. I worked hard to refrain from judgment because I know what it feels like to be judged, though I did find myself occasionally dropping a “covidiot” bomb.

One thing this pandemic has revealed is a certain nastiness in people, and I'm not just referring to the so-called “anti-maskers.” The behavior of the deniers and anti-maskers has been abhorrent and not something I condone. I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention the anti-Asian racism that's surged over the past year as a result of the pandemic. This blog post isn't about that behavior, although I may address it in another post because it's very problematic.

Nothing I'm about to say is meant to be an exercise in whataboutism. The behavior I previously described is exponentially worse; to suggest otherwise would be a false equivalence. With that caveat out of the way, I'd like to discuss the “wear a mask and stay home, or you're a monster”, virtue-signalling crowd. Much like Evangelical, right-wing Christians, these sanctimonious COVID-shamers act as though they have a monopoly on morality. I'd like to offer a word to the wise: shaming is an ineffective tool for eliciting desired behavior, and in my experience is more likely to cause a backlash. Shaming benefits the individual doing the shaming more than it does the shamed. I say all this not as a mental health expert, but as a person with lived experience who is keenly tuned into the effects of shaming. (I'm offering a shout-out to anyone else out there who grew up Catholic. I see you.)

I won't miss the COVID-shamers, assuming they are able to shed their superiority complex, and I am making a direct appeal to them to stop. Shaming will probably win over a few converts, but I'm willing to bet that it's making more enemies, and we need as many people as we can to take this pandemic seriously and get vaccinated. Shaming is not the way, and no one likes condescending, self-righteous behavior. Compassion and education are the path to winning converts. If that's not a skill within one's reach, minding one's own business is a reasonable alternative.

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