Manners: Tones Online

I keep reminding myself that, poll after poll, a majority of Americans SUPPORT mask and vax mandates, so (what small comfort this is), the whiny brats getting their way are the loud minority, not the majority.

Ooof. A friend-of-a-friend (who I’ve never met) posted this on FB regarding masks in schools. The “brats” they are referencing are the parents protesting mask mandates for kids/teens. I avoided responding on FB (as stated, I don’t know this person myself) but it has been bothering me. Enough I went and found the post to copy-and-paste the words to make this post.

I decided responding would be tone policing and that I shouldn’t say anything. People are allowed to be frustrated and sometimes (especially in a text-only online environment) tone can be misunderstood. This person is allowed to be frustrated that their children (possibly high-risk, immuno-compromised) are being put at greater risk. It is not my job (as a stranger) to call them out when they are in a space they should feel safe (a friend’s comment section).

However, this statement bothered me. A lot. Specifically, this rang a very poignant bell to me sounding like arguments I heard in the early 2000s regarding gay rights. “gays are a loud minority, most people support that marriage is a man and a woman.” Does anyone else see it? To me, this was like cheap sandpaper on my skin. Seriously, like 2 days later it still bothered me (and you know, that could be anxiety obsessive thoughts but it still hurts) enough I knew exactly who’s page it was posted on to go find it again.

And I don’t think the person who said this is wrong. I agree with them. Masks are an excellent defense for our most vulnerable. That is the best science we have right now to defeat an insidious virus. And I call it insidious because of the dangers of being infectious but asymptomatic have been there since day 1.

In January, my husband tested positive with Covid and essentially had no symptoms. If our toddler weren’t showing symptoms we wouldn’t have known to even test. And testing positive meant he was possibly infectious. If we came in contact with someone who was immuno-compromised we might give that person a deadly virus and never know.

And this is where I decided to keep my mouth shut on FB. I don’t want to tone police someone. I know this isn’t quite the power-to-marginalized group generally referred to in a tone policing conversation, but I don’t think that matters either. It definitely was not a “punching up” scenario either. I wasn’t speaking some kind of truth-to-power. So as much as it was sandpaper-tone to me, I walked away.

And walking away was (as you can guess) kind of difficult. Before writing this post I tried to respond (you know, days after they originally said it) but I kept deleting my responses because it felt too much like tone policing. It felt like I was jumping on them for their frustration, not for the argument itself. So instead, I went to my journal and wrote about it.

I write long-hand with a pen in my journal, so there is no “let me delete that and never acknowledge it again.” At best, I could use white-out, but I would still know my “shame” is under it (and I would have to have white out in my house, which I don’t think I do). In doing this, I decided I really didn’t like the person as presented on the page in any kind of response I would make. I wouldn’t want to meet that person. That person isn’t being loving or supporting or even necessarily kind.

That revelation then inspired this post. This is what I think I would like to leave anyone reading this with: when do you decide to jump in as a potential ally? When do you walk away? How do you make the decision? Do you even consciously go and review your decision like I did?

Writer, nerd, and perpetual student. I am obsessed with books - both the reading and the making of them. If I won the lottery I would try to have the best private(ish) library in the world. It wouldn't be totally private because the whole purpose of having books is helping other people find a book they will love. I have 2 cats, Genkii (energy) and Kawaii (cutie). I will mention them regularly because they are a daily delight in my life. Granted, sometimes when I'm playing video games they are not so much "delight" as they are "distraction"... but I love them regardless.