A Social Paradox


Maya Richter

Masked CHS students sit outside in the quad.

I’ve been looking forward to this since the first day I had to wear a mask. I missed sitting in the quad breathing in the fresh morning air. I missed watching people sing. I missed snacking on a granola bar during class.  I missed seeing my friends smile. I missed it all so much I convinced myself it wasn’t a big deal. It’s just a little piece of cloth, afterall. But I’ve been looking forward to this forever. Now that the moment is finally here, it’s nothing like how I’ve fantasized. The joyous celebration of my imagination instead exists as a social paradox.

I’m a believer in science. I’m a believer in doing what’s right. I’ve listened to those who have dedicated their lives to studying disease and I will continue to trust those who know far more than I ever could about COVID. That being said, the guidance of science when it comes to these social dilemmas seems to have disappeared. I’m now stuck in the gray area of “mask recommended,” with either side I choose feeling like I’m disobeying some cosmic social law.

I’m now stuck in the gray area of ‘mask recommended,’ with either side I choose feeling like I’m disobeying some cosmic social law. 

— JiaLi Deck

I feel guilty for considering the fact that social dynamics play a role in a decision that, in reality, should just be about looking at the numbers. It’s my belief that doing anything against the recommendation of science is inherently problematic. Whether you’re libral or conservative, bending the facts to serve a political agenda does nothing but harm society. If scientists say I don’t need a mask, I shouldn’t wear one. Simple as that. I wish I could listen to that alone and make a choice that is independent of my peers, but that’s a lot easier said than done.

I like to pretend I’m a self thinking, against the grain, pushing the boundaries type of person. The type of person that couldn’t care less what a random group of 16 year olds would think about me, but I think it’s mostly a facade. I do my best to think for myself. To say what I believe, even if people disagree. But when all is said and done, I’m just a highschooler. I want to be liked. I want to have friends. I don’t want people to think I’m inconsiderate, or superior, or rude. I don’t want people whispering behind my back, judging my choices, my values.

Although, I can not deny my own contribution to the problem which I now face. Making judgments is part of the human experience. It’s how we killed mammoths and escaped lions, but judgment is no longer just about survival. The human instinct to judge others now comes with consequence. I don’t try to think negatively about those who don’t wear a mask. The thoughts just slip into my brain. I’ve gossiped with friends about who’s vaccinated and who wears a mask in class. I’ve judged peoples’ Florida vacation trips and maskless parties. I try to tell myself that my judgment is somehow different from the judgment I fear from others, but, the truth is, it really isn’t. As much as I despise the politicization of the pandemic, I can’t ignore its ever present effect on how we live our lives. I know with whatever choice I make others will judge me in the exact same way I will judge them. 

I know I am not the only one facing these dilemmas. The past week has been an onslaught of conversations about what people are going to do. “I’ll probably just do what everyone else does,” being the most common response. I’m not sure what I will end up doing on Monday, although by the time you read this I must’ve made a decision. I’ll probably just do what everyone else does.