Navigating Half-Hidden Faces: Sociality Behind a Mask

Social dynamics are simply “different” with the current conditions of the pandemic.


Jessica Velcheck, Bear Hub Staff

We know- it’s been months since hybrid school started and then re-started, with full in-person school crawling along without disturbance. But to those who re-entered the building to seek something closer to their former learning experience, it’s been largely incomplete. It’s missing something…a lot of somethings, everyone’s lower faces being cloaked by masks that is. They’re necessary, and are going to be so for the foreseeable future, but that doesn’t ease the fact that half of our expressions are hidden. We’re all six feet apart. It’s significantly tougher to lean towards a friend and whisper to avoid a teacher’s ear, or take the leap and talk to someone new.

No doubt that this has affected the student body.

Out of a sample of 16 students, a whole 62.5% find it difficult to make new friends within the spaced-out conditions, with an additional 12.5% finding it impossible! “It’s hard to have the random interactions in a day that leads to meeting new people” writes an anonymous student, encapsulating the frustrations expressed by their peers.

“It’s harder because a lot of students are staying home so I don’t get to meet them” writes Nicole Chin, 12, revealing an issue with the pandemic conditions overall. Things still feel separated, even though the halls rumble with more life than they got to since March of 2020.

Yet students cope. When asked if they could recall any awkward experiences in the hallways curated by the existence of masks, 50% reported no, thankfully enough. But for those who have come across disruptions in their day as direct consequence, it gets pretty embarrassing. “I would have many moments where I can’t tell if people are talking to me or not,” writes Landon Abramo, 11. “This puts me in the awkward position of either ignoring them and being rude, or jumping into someone else’s conversation.”

Yikes! It’s certainly not pleasant to go through that, but masks over the nose remain required for the safety of the collective. Vaccinations and lowering infection rates provide a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel, and though another class of seniors will graduate behind masks, for the first time in a while there’s hope.