Friendships Strained Over Differences In Views On Masks, Social Distancing

The pandemic has thrown a wrench into every aspect of our lives, whether it’s work, family, relationships with the people we live with, and of course, friendships. 

Hangouts at the bar have been replaced with Zoom meetings, casual coffees and catchups are nonexistent or totally digitized. 

Even though some parts of the economy have reopened, public health experts still advise keeping distance and not gathering in groups. 
Some people adhere to that advice, and others are a bit more lenient. 

That variance is putting even more strain on friendship circles

Sue Scheff is the author of "Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate" and she’s written about the unraveling of friendships during COVID-19.

One point of contention for some people is wearing a mask. Some people believe in wearing masks and others don't.

“If you believe in it but yet your neighbor doesn’t do you believe it’s right that we become judge and jury and start policing our neighbors? What’s happening is… we have neighbors policing neighbors," Scheff said.

There have been instances across the country where confrontations over masks have turned violent. Scheff said 'mask shaming' - and really shaming of any kind - has very little positive impact on a situation.

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“There are no winners in mask-shaming,” she said. 

Shaming people, she said, actually brings up more resentment and anger.

Scheff also warned about being negative or attacking someone on social media posts that friends and employers can see.

“We all really have to take a step back, especially before you post something on social [media] because it is causing many of us to post or comment without thinking," she said, "You never want to put that temporary emotion on the permanent internet."

Angry, shaming or bullying posts can not only cost you a relationship, but could also cost a job. Scheff noted that in today's world, a majority of employers check an applicant's social media channels in the hiring process.

Instead, she said it is time to be positive on social media and lift up those who are being harassed or bullied.

Scheff suggests avoiding a debate with friends, much like politics, it is unlikely you are going to change anyone's mind. If you do get into a discussion about some of the issues surrounding masks and social distancing, she said keep it respectful and friendly.

“Try to have a constructive conversation. As soon as it starts getting combative is when you have to back up a little bit because you really don’t want to destroy a friendship,” she said.

Scheff said one of the most important things to remember during this trying time is when it is all over - and it will be over - no one wants to look back and regret losing a friend.

“It’s all going to come to an end and we don’t want to look back and not have those friendships that we had before.”


Sue Scheff, author, "Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate" 

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