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The Mask Malady: A Modern Ailment

(Image courtesy of The Phantom of Opera's Facebook Page.)

Social media loses its magic when you learn about its membrane: math, logistics, and psychology. The social media organism does not live in a luxurious hotel or fly first class; it survives in windowless server boxes worldwide. The organism's sole mission is to dole likes, comments, and shares based on how many "friends" a user has. I don't want to blame social media algorithms and formulas for people's actions. At the end of the day, a person has free will and can choose how they want to spend their time. But, I think social media has exacerbated only seeing a person's highlights instead of real life. Consequently, the mask malady is on full display.

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

The Mask Malady happens when people hide their authentic version of themselves to project what society wants a person to be. They are two stages of the Mask Malady.

(Gif courtesy of

The Onset --> The Onset happens when people erroneously believe they have to be what society wants them to be. Consequently, people lose their humanity to become elevated to mythological paragons. Aphrodite and Adonis return in the guise of reality tv stars. Prometheus arrives as the business mogul who disrupts the car industry. But I find the scariest to be the Hydra. The Hydra is a monster that grows two heads for every one you chop off. It has been reincarnated as the ever-multiplying social media platform.

(Image courtesy The Art Institute in Chicago, Il. The image is Hercules and the Lernaean Hydra by Gustave Moreau circa 1876.)

Second Stage -->The Second Stage is when the condition almost becomes incurable. It happens when a person's identity is cemented in what the world believes they need to be. When a victim is in the second stage, the once-human must always be the paragon. There are no off days. The person must adhere to the social contract of their choosing. Ultimately, all paragons shift to King Midas, no matter how they begin. Paragons beg, plead, and pray that their gift is removed.

(Image of the Library of Congress. The image depicts King Midas with his daughter, from A Wonder Book for Boys and Girls by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The picture is from Walter Crane.)

While The Mask Malady might seem inoperable, I believe I might have found a remedy. Vulnerability is transforming into more of an ideal than a reality. Since the beginning of time, philosophers, religious leaders, and writers have espoused how vulnerability acts as a person's moral compass. Social media has twisted the modern notion of vulnerability. Society needs vulnerability to be filtered in a socially acceptable way. This notion is the antithesis of vulnerability's core.

I am currently reading a book called The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle. Coyle discusses how vulnerability can transform a group into a team. The vulnerability occurs when people shift their focus from themselves to the group's needs. This premise is counter-intuitive. Didn't the Enlightenment argue that the individual's rights precede the group? I think vulnerability occurs when someone realizes that losing their identity to appease society's notions of you does not sound appealing.

(Image courtesy of


Me on my first day of graduate school

Rachel Huss

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