I recently heard the term “doom scrolling.” If you have been on social media the last few months, you already know what I’m talking about. Endlessly scrolling and finding more bad news to consume. It’s everywhere, and easy to find. An addiction that can be easily filled with constant scrolling. One click of an article leads you to another and another, until you realize that the cookies you put in the oven an hour ago are burning. Anyone else baking a lot?
Recently, the mask or not to mask debate has been the “highlight” on social media. Whichever “side” you are on, you are sure to find sufficient evidence to make the other “side” wrong. What you look for, you will find. It’s easy to voice your opinion behind the mask of social media, and see your perspective as the only one. Taking a moment to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and ask questions takes time and patience, and a lot of us are running low on both during this uncertain and unknown time.
Recently, I was reading my workplace’s guidelines on requesting a flexible work schedule during this time, and it mentioned a reason that a flexible work schedule could be requested was if a person has anxiety wearing a mask. I thought back to my Dad’s final month on this Earth. He was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and forced to wear a mask for oxygen. To most people, it looked like a simple tube that went up his nose and up around his head. However, my Dad had severe claustrophobia due to receiving the max lifetime radiation 20 years prior. He had stage 4 cancer in 1999, and received radiation twice a day on his neck area. During this time he wore a radiation mask to protect his face. He took the radiation and wore the mask because there were not any other options if he wanted to have a longer life to spend with his friends and family. However, after his experience wearing the radiation mask, he would get anxious if anything was over his face. If his shirt got caught on his face while he was taking it on and off, he would feel panic. I can’t imagine how he felt, but I can have compassion for him. I could see the fear and the hell that wearing his COPD mask caused him for less than a month, and I can only imagine how he would feel if he was here today. His voice was soft due to the radiation, and it became harder for him to speak and be heard. Wearing a mask would have made it even harder for his words to be understood. If he was here today, his weakened immune system would have made it hard for him to go out in public, but I can’t imagine that he would have been able to wear a mask. He mentally could not do it. It was simply too much for him. I would like to think if anyone ever approached him in public during this time, they would have shown compassion instead of telling him to wear a mask, or talking about how disgusted they were to their friends. But, it’s hard to tell.
I’ve heard that this pandemic will last a relatively short time, but the effects of this may last a lifetime. The same way that my Dad’s radiation treatments lasted a relatively short time, but the effects stayed with him the rest of his life. The fear, division, and isolation that we are experiencing can’t be easily forgotten. Your words and emotions have power, and you may not even know how you have affected someone, especially with so many consuming social media. Whichever side of this debate you are on, I invite you to take a moment to breathe and consider another perspective before making an attack on anyone. Seek to understand. Do you want to affect others with loving or hateful words? Will you use your words to tear someone down or lift them up? How can you show compassion during this time?