In the United States, the COVID‐19 pandemic has proved to be especially destructive and divisive. One of the few things that has united Americans during the pandemic, however, is the experience of watching a new genre of viral videos—face mask face‐offs—that showcase citizens going toe‐to‐toe in public places because someone refuses to wear a mask. These videos are not mere political theater; they are replete with sociologically meaningful data about the nature of Americans’ cultural divisions. By closely analyzing recorded conflicts over collective coronavirus risks and individual freedoms in public settings, the authors identify six justifications for not wearing a mask. These justifications point to emerging cultural discourses and practices organized around phones that not only point to new ways for us to observe social life but participate in the reconfiguration of social life—and social conflict—itself.

You do not currently have access to this content.