How my local Facebook group transformed my relationship with social media

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  • Up until March 22nd 2020 (an approx date, seeing as the Gregorian calendar holds no weight nowadays), I had a hate/hate relationship with social media. A strong reaction for a ‘digital’ editor, but that’s the deal with social; it amplifies opinions and heightens feelings on topics you never knew you had the emotional capacity to care about, until you realise you’re still ruminating about that TeaTox #sponcon post you saw days earlier.

    The remedy? Delete Facebook and Instagram and leave it to my friends to WhatsApp me screen shots of choice picks so I still get to feel ‘involved’.

    Then Coronvirus hit, and everything changed.

    One insignificant consequence of this global pandemic is that my revulsion for scrolling has decreased, and I have found myself spending time in a niche corner of social media, namely: The Local Community Facebook Forum.

    In a tale as old as time, I was alerted to this Facebook group thanks to a tip off from a friend who lives locally. Due to my fast-paced approach to social media, it took me little over a week to investigate this tip, because I’d deleted the app and had to be forced to reinstall it in order unlock this private Shangri-La. But oh my, was it worth the iPhone storage.

    Suffice to say, I now spend my days as a silent voyeur on the local community page and feel certain that, in a week or so, I will feel confident enough to offer up a ‘like’ to signal that I’m an active part of the community and not afraid to rise up and take action when called upon. Probably when I am told to pick a side between the eternally warring factions of dog walkers and joggers.

    “I’m sick and tired of joggers firing droplets of sweat and saliva in my direction when I’m trying to walk the dog, it’s unsanitary 😤.”

    “TY Dave!! It’s disgusting. Why can’t they just move out of the way???!!!!”

    “Excuse me, I’ve been running Parkland Walk (North) for 5+ years, why should I have to stop now? We’re not criminals.”

    “Sorry sweetie, I’ve seen you on the path TWICE in one day………”

    “Fisijwidndw, did I call for the #COVIDPOLICE?”

    The banality of these conversations borders on the profound. And what could more comforting in times of uncertainty than such consistently middle of the road, localised content?

    All hail local the local Facebook Group

    This weekend, I found myself checking on a post enquiring about the current stock levels of Calpol in Superdrug with the same voracity as Joe Exotic goes through a bottle of household bleach. Do I look back and think, “God, I could have written the next Great American Novel in the time spent looking at that Calpol post!”? No. Because I consider this to be a legitimate hobby. And more cost-effective than making sourdough.

    “When COVID-19 broke out I wanted to see if I could help people in my local community, so I joined the Crouch End Appreciation Facebook Group and little did I know it would turn out to be my biggest form of entertainment during lockdown (even more so than season 3 of Ozark)!” explains Jerry, a fellow North London resident and the reason I now spend my days on a private FB forum.

    “Checking in daily, I now get a first hand insight into what’s going on in my neighbourhood, from the local shops offering delivery of fresh goods, to the naming and shaming of those breaking the rules. Joggers get a particularly bad rep, I haven’t gone running since in fear of the curtain twitchers. Thanks god for Joe Wicks P.E. Today however I have ordered a vegan sausage roll from local talent Dunn’s Bakery, that’ll no doubt be the highlight of my week.”

    In times of crisis, I urge you all to seek solace in these community forums. Along with serving up practical tips (like how to support local initiatives and highlighting small businesses that are still trading), they are a vital reminder that life goes on. And even in the midst of a global crisis, there will always be that person concerned for the welfare of the carp in Peckham Rye Gardens.

    “What has happened to the huge carp in the pond in the Japanese Garden in Peckham Rye Gardens? I’ve not seen it for weeks? Very upsetting!

    “It’s still there. I saw it Sunday.”

    “Is that water even aerated? I’d assume any fish would suffocate and die otherwise.”

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