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Signs of Passive-Aggressive Behavior in the COVID Era

How mask-wearing has become the new way to "compliantly defy" COVID protocols.

Key points

  • Passive-aggressive persons often find ways to improperly wear masks in order to defy COVID protocols.
  • There is a range of ways that passive-aggressive people may follow the letter of the law, while violating its spirit entirely.
  • There are ways to recognize the most common red flags of passive-aggressive COVID protocol defiance.

Nearly 20 months into the coronavirus pandemic, COVID fatigue has happened to just about all of us. Bickering over mask-wearing is one of the many symptoms of this collective exhaustion. On both sides, people are tired. Students, employees, and customers are sick of having to wear masks in order to attend school, go to work, or shop at their favorite store. Teachers, supervisors, and workers are fed up with having to enforce mask mandates. Within this dynamic of the rule-makers vs. the openly defiant rule-breakers exists a sub-section of passive-aggressive "half-maskers" who have figured out how to compliantly defy COVID protocols. Here are some of the common ways anti-maskers have found to covertly flout virus prevention rules:

  • Wearing their mask, but positioning it under their nose.
  • Wearing their mask, but positioning it under both their nose and mouth.
  • When someone asks them to pull their mask up over their nose and/or mouth, they dutifully do so, then immediately pull it down again once out of eyesight of the requestor.
  • Temporary dehydration: "I'll put my mask back on as soon as I am done drinking."
  • Long-term sipping: Holding a drink in their hand all. day. long. so as to justify why their mask is constantly pulled down.
  • Feigning an apology: "Oh, sorry. I was just having a snack. I'll put my mask back on as soon as I finish this last bite."
  • The longest last bite ever: Never, ever finishing that last bite on the plate makes for a convenient excuse to remain mask-free.
  • Removing the mask to talk: Whenever virus particles can escape the nose or mouth, disease can be transmitted, so it's especially hard to fathom the thin justification that, "I just remove the mask so that I can talk."
  • Removing the mask to cough or sneeze: We've all seen it—people who lower their masks when they cough or sneeze so as not to trap wetness inside their mask, which is exactly what the masks are designed to do.
  • Passive-aggressive masking: Masks made of mesh or that use exhalation valves are the very definition of ineffective masks because of how they allow virus particles to escape. Yet, they are the perfect cover for the passive-aggressive person who wants to be able to claim that they are following the letter of the law (I am wearing a mask...) but violate the spirit of the law completely (... that does nothing to prevent disease transmission.)

While this post is in no way meant as a guide for how to subvert masking rules, it perhaps serves as a commentary for the range of ways that people, hostile at having to wear a face covering, have found to (ironically) mask their anger.

More from Signe Whitson L.S.W., C-SSWS
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