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To Mask, or not to Mask, it is not a Question.

How I lost a friendship in 2020

Elizabeth Wilks
9 min readOct 9, 2020


In Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, the titular character contemplates life in the famous “To be, or not to be” soliloquy:

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them.

In translation, Hamlet is basically asking if it is better to suffer and live or to die. In 2020, this speech gained new meaning for me as I navigated the precarious waters of online discourse. Did I want to suffer through the outrageous claims of my online friends or fight for the truth and consequently lose them?

It was a question one particular online friend pushed.

This is that story.

My online friend and I met through Camp NaNoWriMo, an offshoot of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which allows people to gather in “virtual cabins” to encourage each other’s writing. We started with a larger group of people, but through the years we dwindle down to just the two of us.

The last two years, I began to struggle to connect to my online friend. I wanted to talk about writing, the thing that brought us together in the beginning, but all she wanted to talk about were cars and cell phones. It seemed she was always in the market for a new phone. There was always something wrong with the one she had. It died. It wasn’t fast enough. It wouldn’t charge. ect. ect. ect.

The car conversations were worse. Like a cell phone, she was always on the hunt for a new used car. She never looked at new ones; they were out of her price range, and she wasn’t interested in saving. She ended up buying at least two cars while we were talking, but even after those purchases she was back to scouring the web for another car. I can’t even remember how many pictures she sent me of different cars. She would rattle off specifications that I had no interest in knowing because I had idea what they meant. I did my best to politely tell her that cars had no interest for me, but she had a one tracked mind.

Then, last winter she made some choices that I didn’t agree with and because of those choices wanted sympathy…



Elizabeth Wilks

When she’s not writing at the coffee shop, cuddling with her cat, or watching bad reality television, you can find her traveling to new and familiar places.