Virus Shaming – Are You Guilty?

Virus Shaming – Are You Guilty?

Virus shaming may become the next social disorder if not addressed immediately. This new behavior is a cross between bullying and peer pressure and is occurring more profoundly since America has been self-isolating. Lack of face-to-face contact and increased personal tension are facilitating growth parallel to the Coronavirus expansion itself. To best cope with this new normal, our society needs to be aware of the situation, make the choice to modify their behavior, educate themselves on understanding, and choosing the right behavior, and discipline themselves to make it their new normal.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “Bullying is a form of aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort.”

Peer pressure, according to the APA is, “The influence exerted by a peer group on its individual members to fit in with or conform to the group’s norms and expectations.”

This Covid-19 pandemic forces a disruption to our socialization processes and the interaction we have with others. Human behavior dictates that when something changes, contrary to our desire, we resist the change and try even harder to maintain our homeostasis, or status quo. Thus, those who believe that as long as they maintain their personal normal, the coming social changes will not affect them. Their coping mechanism is a subconscious defense of their position which they deflect upon others.

The extent to which this bullying and peer pressure combination may damage our culture’s perception of acceptable behavior is yet to be seen. But the consequences of “virus shaming” are already impacting most aspects of our daily lives.

An example could be: You want to go to a private house party, but you decide not to because it would mean gathering, in close quarters, with many people. Your friend says, kiddingly, “What are you going to do, sit home with your hand-sanitizer?” That is clearly a form of peer pressure and verbal bullying. Even though it’s not consciously intended to be hurtful. The shaming could cause you to question your otherwise responsible decision-making.

Yes, birthdays, weddings, proms and graduations will all be foregone. We are becoming disconnected; our former lives feel so long ago, already. We are all losing something, but there will always be those who resist the reality of change.

It is critical to recognize virus shaming situations; however minor they are. Choose to act in a way that identifies the negativity of the dynamic and educates those around us in a non-confrontational manner.

It is up to each of us, as a society, to be cognizant of the impact and potential anxiety we are creating with our words and actions.

Other examples of “virus shaming” facing our youth right now include the social pressure of being mocked for not wanting to participate in a “quarantine party” even though it is clearly dangerous. Spring breakers are openly pressuring their college friends to not cancel plans, even though it is advised by authorities to do so.

Recently, a customer was observed in a convenient store “virus shaming” the register clerk for licking their finger while counting out bills for change. The clerk apologized profusely, noting it was years of force of habit. The customer continued to berate the clerk, eventually causing them to burst into tears.

Fear and lack of knowledge is a strong motivator to be unkind and intolerant.

While “virus shaming” can be written or verbal, passive or intentional, you have the power to reduce and even eliminate it’s occurrence by learning and incorporating these behaviors into your daily routine:

  • Awareness – Recognize when virus shaming is happening.
  • Choice – Decide to correct the behavior by addressing it.
  • Education – Learn how to respond to virus shaming in a constructive way.
  • Discipline – Do the right thing, every time, every day, until it’s a new habit.

Remember, when you successfully fight virus shaming, you’ve ACED it!


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