This is why some people will not wear masks, according to an expert

01 October 2020 - 06:30 By kgaugelo masweneng
From the start of the pandemic, some people have ignored or minimised the threat of Covid-19, while others have adopted imposed safety measures. File photo.
From the start of the pandemic, some people have ignored or minimised the threat of Covid-19, while others have adopted imposed safety measures. File photo.
Image: 123RF/Giulio Fornasar

The fear of being silenced or conforming to societal standards at large are among the reasons some people resist wearing masks, says a specialist.

Erica Munnik, a clinical psychologist and lecturer at the University of the Western Cape, says from the start of the pandemic, some people have ignored or minimised the threat of Covid-19, while others have adopted imposed safety measures.

“These regulations are new to us. People have specific reasons why they don’t wear or [do] wear masks. To some it's uncomfortable, they can’t breathe properly. Some people don’t like being told what to do,” she said.

“Personality characteristics might play a role, while peer pressure might lead to compliance or non-compliance.”

Some people convinced themselves that they were “resilient” and did not “believe in mask-wearing”.

Munnik was speaking as a panel member in a webinar hosted by MTN unpacking the psychology behind why many people still refuse to wear masks.

While wearing a mask remains one of the most effective measures to slow the spread of Covid-19, many people refuse to wear them, wear them incorrectly or underestimate their importance.

Munnik said due to a combination of demographic and socio-psychological reasons, people adhere to the regulations at different levels.

For some, they are in denial about the dangers of exposing oneself to the disease; others are able to weigh their options and reason with themselves.

“They tell themselves, ‘OK, I will wear it - although I still don’t like it. I will only wear it if I go out.’  

“Masks might become a symbol of a particular conformity, ritual of collective responsibility and discipline against the virus. But our smiles cannot be seen under the masks, which make social interaction difficult.

“Masks have a psychological strange side. They might make us more tolerable towards others. They might be comfortable for the shy person.”

Jacqui O’Sullivan, executive for corporate affairs of MTN, said access to information and digital solutions remain critical as countries battle to beat the virus.

“We will continue to harness our technology for good to support communities, governments and the customers we serve,” she said.

“Now is not the time to be complacent, and we will continue our efforts to ensure the awareness about the importance of wearing masks resonates with even more people as we ask everyone to keep doing the right thing and #WearItForMe.”

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