Masks and our identity

Anyone who’s ever taken part in a Carnival knows a truth about masks that’s hard to convey otherwise: they liberate. Whether they’re encountered in an anthropological setting where the semiotics of identity are at play or in the pop-culture context of a Batman mask or, even, in the much deeper context of a Guy Fawkes mask, they are all heavily symbolic. Ambivalent and revealing, bringing to the surface and hiding behind their façade aspects of who we are and, even more importantly, who we want to be seen to be.

Masks, by design, hide aspects of who we are. That allows us to be something else. When that something else has a clear intention a mask is a form of empowerment as Batman makes clear. Or a form of restriction that robs us of our identity and turns us into largely faceless drones as some who resist wearing facemasks in a pandemic, fear.

The fact is that masks do change us. They strip us of part of our identity. Because we are social animals, wearing a mask is a social activity as revealed by a study on wearing a mask in a pandemic. Like most social activities it can either unite us or divide us.

Psychologically, masking is something we all engage in, to some degree. And our brains have evolved to process signals even when masks are at play which is why, perversely, we can find mask wearers more attractive in some contexts.

Whether we use literal or figurative masks to hide who we are or reveal aspects of our personality the truth remains that we can only truly engage with the issue when we realize its broader context and its direct impact on us and those around us.

We are the constructs of our decisions, actions, thoughts, choices and memories. That makes us malleable, evolving, fragile and prone to faulty behaviors. It is important to understand all that and accept that in the 21st century we need to be more than people were in the past. Otherwise, we may not have a future.

Coffee. I know you have it! Donuts, cookies, croissants and chocolate cake. Ingredients needed for the deep thinking that really needs to take place. Have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.

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