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When You Have a Mask, Who Needs a Face?

There’s a lot of hostility to masks. There are many reasons for that, but the health issue is a priority for most people. They wear them for safety. I wonder if we’re all missing something big.

Clothing for Deep Thinkers Only, Please

WFH (working from home) is now changing the fashion equation. We dress up (on our upper body) so we can look businesslike and impress the citizenry on the other end of the tube. (The Science Behind WFH Dressing for Zoom). So while no-one is buying pants any longer, work shirts are hot. That’s because we all want to look the part, and, even more so, feel it.

The hot new term for that is enclothed cognition. That’s a fancy way of saying that we are what we wear. The veery act of wearing all these cool tops is that it impacts our cognition; to wit to make us feel and act more like how we look.

I’ve posted before on a related topic, namely “embodied cognition”. That’s the idea that your thinking takes place not just in your brain but in the neural systems of your extremities. There are ways of impacting your cognition productively by using this effect. See my screed on this at “What have Octopuses got to do with Leadership?” (19 September 2015) for more tiresome details.

So enclothed cognition is an item. What can we do with it? How does it impact our everyday lives?

Facial Billboards

It seems to me that masks are a big issue here. Pretty much everyone is wearing them now. Maybe there will be a vaccine and we will stop. But maybe there’s something else then. So, it looks like we need to think of them as being part of the permanent fashion landscape.

There’s fancy bandannas now, not just masks. And there’s marks for everything like Halloween, political parties, and cartoons. But that seems to be a very unimaginative use of masks and the whole idea of enclothed cognition.

Could I don a CEO mask if I’m an upwardly mobile MBA, to underscore where my life is going? What about my desire to find a long-term partner, of any or either gender? In other words, how can I use my facial billboard for what I want my life to be, Can I convert it into a personal branding statement that tells strangers what I’m really about? And in that case, can I help my chances of finding the partner I want?

Can Coronavirus Recognize Faces?

It’s not just about people we meet in the physical world either. These days we’ve got Zoom meetings to think about. Sure, you don’t need masks for health reasons there, but what if that’s no longer the point? If you’re on a Zoom call with people who are not familiar, what is the best thing for me to be, barefaced but unknown and unrecognized, or masked with a distinctive portrayal of my personal branding and current or long-time life-goals emblazoned for everyone to see?

And whatever I put on my face can now be part of my integrated branding. Whatever is portrayed on it can be used as a branding icon or token on my other clothing, my car, my boat or…. maybe my avatar?

It’s not going to be too long before we will all start to use an avatar online instead of our real faces. An avatar with a distinctive token is probably going to be a lot more recognizable than my actual face, unless it has something very characteristic associated with it.

It would seem to make a lot more sense for a mask to soften people up with something distinctive which becomes the emblem of my online personality. Why do I need my face to be publicized anyway, except for my partner and my (few?) personal friends?

Who Needs a Face Anyhow?

We can keep our real face for government-issued IDs, but attach it to an avatar which might well be more useful for recognition purposes that facial recognition which all can still get confused, whereas we can make avatars which could not be.

The real estate where our face is located is way more valuable than we have treated it as being. Using masks merely highlights that issue. It’s time we thought outside the box to see what we can really do with it, that has more value than just being recognizable.





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