As the COVID-19 pandemic lingers, it seems people are growing more irritable. We've all seen the videos on social media of so-called 'mask rage.' But what is causing the anger?
Cooper’s Old Time Pit BBQ in Fort Worth, like many restaurants, have battled their way through pandemic restrictions.
“When you walk in you get to pick your cuts of meat right of the pits,” Cooper’s Old Time Pit BBQ co-owner Candace Cooper said.
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But now they’re faced with being business owners and enforcers.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t create the mandate, but we are charged with enforcing it,” Cooper said.
Mask and face-covering mandates though aren’t covering up some ugly emotions.
“We’ve had people want to argue with you and say you are taking away their rights and this is not fair,” Cooper said. “It’s just a difficult spot for the restaurants to be put in and you see a lot of that online too on our social media accounts.”
This scenario has played out time and time again in businesses across North Texas and the country.
That anger can lead to severe consequences.
“It can sometimes escalate into verbal as well as physical aggression which puts them at risk for all kinds of relationship, career, legal consequences,” licensed therapist Robert Smith said. Anger management is one of his specialized areas of therapy.
“Being required to wear a mask is something that in itself isn’t that big of an issue you’d think,” Smith said. “But it is one of the few areas we do have some control over. I can put that mask on or I can leave it off.”
Smith believes the restrictions of COVID-19 on people for months is now starting to manifest itself. He thinks people are now grasping on to a sense of personal control.
“Being confined to a place whether it’s your home or some other area where you don’t have a lot of control over your movement and there are other controls are being put on you that’s an incubator for frustration,” Smith said.
He added, “As we begin to lose control of our daily routine it’s certainly to be expected that frustration will start to develop and frustration leads to anger.”
The anger we see in public is also lurking behind computer keyboards on social media.
“I teach religion and politics,” Tarleton State University Dean of the Liberal and Fine Arts College Eric Morrow said. “I tell my students I’m getting them ready to go home at Thanksgiving so you can talk about the two most controversial things that you’re not supposed to talk about.”
The subjects he teaches are a hot target for heated online comments.
“It immediately gets very contentious and at times very hateful because I think people have that extra measure of boldness to say I’m not doing this face to face I’m just doing it with my fingers on Facebook, on Twitter or some other platform.”
You may not be able to control someone’s reactions or comments. But you can control your own emotions by stepping back and taking a breath.
“Breathing actually, slow breathing actually calms the body,” Smith said. “It lowers the heart rate. When we are calm, we think more clearly. We think more realistically.”
Thinking clearly and calmly is ultimately going to make things go better for everyone.
Something Cooper hopes people will take to heart.
“Please be patient with us,” Cooper said. “Everyone is doing the best that they absolutely can. Everybody that is in business right now is just trying to survive.”
*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.
**County totals below include all 32 North Texas counties, not just Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant.