Covid Defective Thinking

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[ "Mask appeal: The addiction of surgical masks in Japan. Wearing surgical masks is a social norm in Japan, but for some, it can be an addiction,"] Tor Ching Li For The Straits Times In Tokyo APR 8, 2017.

Nearly one in three Japanese wore masks every day in 2011, compared with around one in five in 2008, according to a survey by Kobayashi Pharmaceutical, a leading maker of pollution-related face masks.

For many people, especially women, masks are for days when they feel less attractive."I wear masks on days when I don't have time to put on make-up before going out," said Ms Mai Hashimoto, a business marketing officer in her 30s. She goes through about a dozen masks every two weeks. "Now, there are many types of masks to choose from, such as those that can make your face look smaller, and they also come in various colours, which is nice," she added....

Unicharm's Mr Tomioka said the company has 11 types of masks - from "3D" masks that stand away from the face and masks that make one's face look smaller, to masks with aroma, like mint-scented ones, with various levels of textures for ease of wearing On the market, there are even pink masks for ladies and black ones for men. Since 2012, some matchmaking companies have even started offering speed dating where participants are required to wear surgical masks. The purported aim is to encourage participants to get to know their would-be sweethearts without judging each other first by looks. Such matchmaking events have proven to be a hit and have spread all over Japan. The spokesman for a Tokyo-based organiser, Mask Matchmaking, said: "Wearing masks sometimes makes it hard to hear what the other person is saying, so naturally, people draw nearer to each other."

But for some Japanese, wearing masks has become an addiction. Mr Yuzo Kikumoto, who set up professional counselling service Kikiwell in 2006, was the first to coin the term "mask dependency" in a paper he wrote in 2009. People were wearing surgical masks not for the purposes they were intended for, he wrote, but because they had grown used to living behind the anonymity of a mask.

The situation has got even more serious in recent years, Mr Kikumoto told The Straits Times. The number of mask addicts seeking counselling at his practice has increased by 50 per cent since 2009, he said. Sufferers are mostly in their 30s to 40s, with women making up slightly more than half of the number , or 60 per cent. "While some people used to feel safe or secure when going out with a mask, it has reached a stage where they cannot go out without wearing a mask. That's how serious it is getting," said Mr Kikumoto, who is a frequent guest on local TV talk shows and news programmes.

The reason for mask dependency, he said, is a feeling of insecurity in public, exacerbated by the proliferation of social media. Many who use social media frequently have become more self-conscious and crave the praise and approval of others. Those who lack such affirmation may then suffer from a deeper sense of inferiority, he added. "The mask acts as a security blanket, and people with this addiction cannot talk to people without wearing a face mask. And society's acceptance of interactions behind masks perpetuates such a dependency," said Mr Kikumoto.