Some people welcome face coverings for reasons ranging from the convenient and expedient to the more complex and psychological. But is this a helpful coping mechanism?

Sheltering in place hasn’t been too hard for Jay Lee; watching a film at home and ordering a takeaway has always been his idea of a good night. Lee, a 32-year-old small business owner in Leicester, identifies as an introvert. And although 2020 had its hardships – in the spring, he was made redundant from his job at a large bank – one perk for him has been the widespread adoption of face masks.

Lee has always dreaded run-ins with old friends and acquaintances around town, finding these spontaneous interactions “extremely awkward”. He used to time his shopping trips to minimise the possibility of bumping into someone he knew, waiting until almost closing time before heading out. “Since I’ve been wearing the mask, my awkward interactions with friends and family have significantly reduced,” he says. Now, he goes to the shops whenever he wants, without worrying about whom he might see. He hopes that, even after the pandemic ends, it will still be socially acceptable to wear a mask.

Wearing a mask is, for most of us, an annoying but worthwhile sacrifice: it’s one of the most effective ways to slow the spread of Covid-19. Still, most of us look forward to the day when we can bare our faces in public again. Face-coverings fog our glasses and clog our pores; they make it harder to smile at strangers and recognise friends.

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