From appearances to safety, decision to unmask isn’t easy for students

With the recent change from masks being required to highly recommended at ETHS, many students have different opinions and thoughts as to whether or not they should wear a mask. While this decision is for the most part being made on behalf of safety, another concern is what others will think of their face without a mask.

“I think that masks do change the way you’re looking at yourself because you worry more about what the top half of your face is looking like. Before masks, that wasn’t really a thing,” sophomore Gabriella Baichwal explains. “Also, last year on Zoom, a lot of people were more conscious of what they looked like, because you could check how you looked in your Zoom camera all the time, or you just wouldn’t have your camera on. And now, you can hide behind your mask a little bit. I think having your whole face out, and worrying about other people seeing you, can be stressful.” 

Other students echo Baichwal’s opinion on the stress that has formed after a long period of remote learning and continuous masking. 

“I think that if somebody were to have grown accustomed to having to only show the top half of their face, then I would understand their fear of going without a mask. After only having the top half of their face be shown, the lower half is, in their mind, sort of imperfect,” Junior Paul Hletko says. 

Due to last year’s circumstances, numerous students got used to the idea of hiding—first behind their screens and now behind their masks. However, with more and more students beginning to stop wearing their masks, some have found it odd to now see others unmasked — as if things are returning to the way they once were. Junior Franny Mereu shares her thoughts on what the experience of others’ unmasking is like. 

“I think before the mask mandate was lifted, I would be surprised if I saw someone not wearing their mask at school. But now, as the mask mandate was lifted, I’ve seen more people unmasked, and it doesn’t feel weird. I definitely don’t have any negative emotions, but it’s more that I’m uncomfortable because it’s something I’m not used to right now,” Mereu shares.

After a couple of years living with COVID-19 in our world, wearing masks seemed to not only be required but become customary in an environment like school, so it makes complete sense that some might feel uncomfortable with the option to now take off your mask.

“If I wasn’t wearing a mask, I would kind of be nervous about what other people are thinking about my safety and COVID,” freshman Oliver Goodman says.  

Other students acknowledge and share in this anxiety. 

 “I understand where everybody’s coming from with wanting to take off their mask to return to normalcy. But I think it’s kind of specific to the situation if it’s worth taking off the mask or not. If you’re putting somebody at risk that could have serious problems getting COVID, then it’s not worth it to take off the mask, even though everybody wants things to turn back to normal,” Mereu states.

Other students think that the mask mandate being changed to a recommendation is a step in the right direction and will help ETHS get back to a pre-COVID “normal.” 

“I’m very happy that I’ll be able to see more people’s faces,” Baichwal explains, “because I think that was a big part of this year that’s been missing about being back in person with people is that you don’t really get the full effect of seeing their face.”