Friday, June 10, 2022

On Masks and Narcissism

I was reading a random woman's social media feed as she was considering that an increase in narcissism might be to blame for masking issues, and I nodded along to each of her points. Then she happened across this study that shows that people who don't mask are more prone to narcissism. 

"Narcissists are by definition self-absorbed. Grandiose narcissism involves a sense of superiority and entitlement and people who are high in grandiose narcissism are likely to ignore the needs of others and not exhibit reciprocity when someone else does something to benefit them. . . . People high in vulnerable narcissism are likely to be very sensitive to rejection and judgment. Results showed that people high in grandiose narcissism were less likely to wear a mask. . . . Vulnerable narcissism, however, has a more complicated relationship with mask-wearing due to egocentrism being associated with less mask-wearing and sensitivity to criticism being related to more mask-wearing." 

To get grandiose narcissists to wear masks, it says, make the behaviour unique. For vulnerable narcissist, make it popular. Both work better than "emphasizing the greater good" or focusing on helping others, which is pretty much all I've tried so far. Of course I've failed with the only people who argued against masks, likely because I was approaching it all wrong talking about compassion for the vulnerable and all. 

Sounds about right, right? But then the OP said that the article was saying the opposite of what she was saying. And she had to stop and think about what that might mean.


It seems generally agreed upon by the OP and the study authors that narcissists are self-absorbed, only willing to act in ways that benefit themselves (although we're using the term non-clinically), so it's fascinating to consider that the OP proposed that people who mask are more self-absorbed that people who don't mask in public places. So how does that work?

She was arguing that people who wear masks are narcissistic I think, maybe, because they want others to wear them too, and that's interpreted as self-centred to want others to follow your lead. This is despite the reasoning behind masks being that, if we each wear one we can reduce the spread for everyone. My masks protects you from the possibility that I'm carrying a virus and don't know it. We might have gotten more people on board from the get go if we had N95s, which protect the wearer as well; we would have gotten more narcissists on board, wouldn't we?? 

Isn't the battle cry of a narcissist, in the common vernacular, "What's in it for me?" I can see what's in it for people who don't want to wear the mask despite the potential to spread a virus because it can be hot and uncomfortable and prevent eating and drinking. That's relatively straight forward in my mind. But what's in it for people who want everyone to wear a mask besides lowering the risk for everyone? It seems different to me because one side is avoiding an inconvenience for themselves and the other side is preventing illness for everyone in the room. But did I just drink so much Kool-aid that I can't see the other perspective? 

So I listened to a pro-convoy speaker, Andy Lee, and was stunned by some of the misinformation. From what I heard, to paraphrase charitably, she said the convoy was necessary because we need to have freedom of movement and unvaccinated truckers were stopped from crossing the border because Trudeau is against democracy. She's trying to get another rally going for Canada Day despite the construction there that she believes is to prevent her from coming. And she's vaccinated, but won't get boosted because it's not 100% effective; good vaccinations don't need boosters, and the government has no right to mandate a vaccine with limited efficacy. There's no science that says we need masks; they're just a punitive measure for anti-vaxxers. Even public health says we don't need them. Now that things are more open and unmasked, where's the spike? Shouldn't we all be hospitalized by now?

BUT... It was Biden that stopped unvaccinated truckers crossing the border. There are virtually no mandates left, so what's left to protest? Many widely accepted vaccinations require a booster to be fully effective, and we've let the virus spread enough to mutate dramatically, which is what causes the vaccines to lose effectiveness. There's tons of science that show that masks are effective. Public health won't mandate them, but still advises we wear them. We won't all end up in the hospital because of Covid, but after mask mandates were removed, we did have a spike, with 6,800 people in the hospital at the start of May. We're down to about half that number now, possibly because the warm weather means more open windows and greater ventilation. It won't take us all, but what's an acceptable loss? I don't think there is one when it can be prevented with something as innocuous as an N95. To me, it just seems cruel to continue on without a mask in public settings when it could possibly cost someone their life or livelihood despite what Dr. Moore would suggest. 

I think the idea that people who wear masks are narcissistic only makes sense through a misinformed lens that sees safety rules as punishments for not believing in something - these vaccines - which, since they don't work 100% are seen as not working at all, and their effectiveness wanes over time like any vaccine for viruses that mutate quickly. But, if that's the reasoning, then it still doesn't follow that people who wear masks are self-absorbed if the masks are a punishment that they also wear. How do they benefit if they also are punished by following these rules? I'm still confused on this one!

ETA: I was just watching Michael Schur taking about what would get someone to lose the most points on The Good Place,  and his answer was "free riding" would be up there, when someone sees a full trolley car, and jumps on the outside to get a ride without paying. It could be argued that it's moral since everyone gets to their destination without harm, but it's a matter of one person benefiting from the right actions of others while themselves doing the wrong action. It's a problem, too, because if everyone follows the lead of the free rider, then we'd have nobody paying their fare, and we can see how that would be a huge problem. And then he extrapolated to people who won't get vaccinated when we need everyone vaxxed, and when people won't wear a mask when it's necessary for us all to wear them if we hope to stop this virus! 

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