BREWER – Whether you wear a mask, or not, there’s a chance someone disagrees with you and may try to publicly shame you online or in person.
“A lady approached us and she stopped and said she wanted to pass … I just pointed and said, ‘Six feet right around us, go right ahead,’” Bangor resident Susan Jonason said about a Sunday interaction along the Brewer waterfront trail. “And she still hesitated and it just kind of made me feel terrible that she was so scared to be around people who weren’t wearing masks, especially since we were outside in the fresh air.”
Public shaming has happened against people who say masks are effective in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, and against those who say masks don’t work and infringe on their civil liberties.
“We want people to repost, to share, to comment to like, and that’s why so many people turn to this public shaming because it’s effective,” said Judith Rosenbaum, University of Maine associate professor of Media Studies, Department of Communications and Journalism.
She added, some online posters become digital vigilantes.
“If we ourselves, for instance, feel very strongly about wearing a mask. Then, if we see somebody posting about not wearing a mask, we will use that to build up our status,” Rosenbaum said.
Rosenbaum said being confrontational rarely changes the other person’s perspective, and oftentimes makes them “dig in their heals.” After the waterfront encounter, Jonason said, she felt discouraged.
“It was just sort of a downer, you know, you never know when you go out into public what you are going to encounter these days just because of wearing a mask and not wearing a mask,” the Bangor woman said.
A message with a gun was posted on the ‘Stand Up, Maine!’ Facebook page that says, “mask police should probably think twice before getting into someone’s business.”
The woman who started the ‘Fans of Dr. Nirav Shah’ Facebook page said she’s also received threats.
“We always deal with some degree of trolls or folks in the anti-mask movement or science deniers,” said Tobey Connor, an administrator for the page.
But, what she didn’t expect was for someone to drive into her family’s rural driveway and yell threats and obscenities, while blocking their exit.
“In some ways, it’s a little more scary than the virus itself because you can take actions to protect yourself against the virus,” Connor said. “But folks who have malicious intentions while we’re getting the message out, you can’t always protect yourself from them.”
“It’s been kind of scary and a wake-up call,” Connor added.
UPDATE: Administrators for the ‘Stand Up, Maine!’ Facebook page informed WVII Wednesday they have taken down the mask police post with the gun image.