By Guest Blogger Allison Chapple

I unearthed my first post to Facebook, which was back in March of 2008: “Allison Gordon Chapple…is at work.”

The next few status updates were equally provocative: “Allison Gordon Chapple…is on the couch about to eat pizza…is about to go to bed…is on vacation.” (Side question: Were we all that dull or was it just me? I blame the old format).

Like most users, Facebook has helped me resume friendships with people from the past, connected me with newer acquaintances, and been a place to document milestones like pregnancies and births and mundane events of everyday. I’ll be honest, it has mostly been a way to organize my sons’ pictures and memories. Somewhere in the back of my mind I worry that it’ll go *POOF* one day and their “Facebook Baby Books” will disappear into Never-Never Land.

After 12 years on Facebook, I’ve acquired 939 “friends.”  Those friends range from family and deep and enduring friends, to people I haven’t met actually in person, folks I know through my career or hobbies or my children or my neighborhood, to people who are friends of friends, and the miscellaneous obscure associations. These friends live as near as across the street and as distant as Iceland and France.

Recently we’ve become bonded by something – COVID-19.

In ordinary life, I am one of those “introverted extrovert” types.  I like people a lot but am a deep-down homebody. This period of isolation, however, has drawn out a need to connect with people, so I started posting daily contemplations and queries on Facebook. Some days the topics have been goofy (“post your petty grievances”) and some days the topics have been heavy and replete with fear (“planning for illness/death if COVID-19 affects you or someone you love”). Every week I post my personal favorite, “Frivolous Fridays,” with a list of items providing me with comfort, pleasure, or some sense of normalcy. Some days have been a total gut-punch, like when we all grieved vacations we had to cancel because of the virus. First world problems, yes, but a collective sadness during a time when we are all impacted in some way.

This whole phenomenon has been baffling. People started contacting me to let me know how much they looked forward to the daily posts – they appreciated having a place to vent, laugh, dump randomness, lament, complain, and share.  I’m sure there are some who unfriended me, muted me, or scroll on by every day.  That’s cool. I’m a pretty secure human. My brand of humor and tendency towards abundant self-disclosure isn’t for everyone and I’m good with that.

There have been many who have commented behind the scenes that they haven’t wanted to publicly participate in the discussions, but they follow along every day and feel grateful for a community and conversations to distract from the turmoil going on in the world. It’s funny. I am a therapist in real life and feel like a quasi-group therapist in these posts in the sense that I get a topic rolling and chime in when needed.  Maybe that role just comes naturally to me. Maybe I’m just lonely and know other people are too. What’s been even more phenomenal is strangers becoming “friends” in the interim as they’re “seeing” each other day after day. Maybe I’m the new Kevin Bacon.  Maybe that’s a little grandiose. I digress.

There have been days when I’ve been tempted to stop posting.  I wonder if I’m annoying people or it’s becoming repetitive or overkill. Then, I find myself thinking of topics when I am running or I’m in the shower. I find myself needing to see if others are feeling like I’m feeling. I want to find something to laugh about when I have fussed at my kids again or feel worried about money or watch the news. I just saw that our mayor has extended the stay-at-home order to May 7th, and my hunch is that I’ll just keep on rollin.’ I’ve become dependent on The People of Facebook for entertainment and support, myself.

Facebook, and social media in general, has a pretty bad rap. I trash-talk it constantly with parents of kids I’m counseling and see how it can cripple even adults with the comparison game and the “keeping-up-with” tendency most of us possess. I wonder how I will utilize Facebook once life reverts to “normal?” For now, it’s teaching me that it can be a uniting platform for almost 1000 people in my life from all over the world. That’s incredible to consider.

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