For someone who has had to get stuck into new communities on a fairly regular basis, the “friendly” neighbourhood Facebook group should, in theory, be a wonderful thing. I had a strategy for them whereby when I would get to my new destination, I’d find a relevant one and make a self deprecating enquiry with a subtle (and veiled) attempt at humour – (From doing lots of powerpoint presentations in my life I’ve found a way of delivering my brilliant jokes in such a way that if no-one laughs I can pass it off as NOT even a joke, thus avoiding tumbleweed!). This usually seems to work as subsequently the odd fellow neighbour will see me in person and say “Oh yes, you’re the fabulously hilarious Jackie Wilson,I saw you on the FB group” and boom! I’ve arrived. (*it didn’t happen EXACTLY like that)
Anyway, in Malaysia, the neighbourhood was in fact a massive condo complex housing families of pretty much every nationality, religion and culture you can think of. The aforementioned humour strategy was a bit hit and miss there so I gave it a swerve. I soon learned that, if used very literally, it was a very useful forum for discussing condo insects, places to get car batteries and understanding what 300 Spanish women were doing last Tuesday on the Tai Chi floor (*it was a charity zumbathon).
On returning the UK, I found a slightly more sinister one. It seemed like a place to name and shame minor community offences.
Example: “Disgraceful unacceptable behaviour witnessed in XYZ cafe today…” *insert very specific and easily identifiable details about a poor mother who’s kid dropped some crumbs and laughed a bit loudly.
This invited a bunch of braying commenters to call for the harsh punishment of the perp or at least a period of exclusion from community events.. and maybe the launching of a few rotten tomatoes maybe? I decided to stay away from that one. *whispers ….I think I was the mother.
Now, here in America, I am DEFINITELY NOT GETTING INVOLVED. Friendly neighbourhood Facebook groups here are TERRIFYING! When I joined one, the first thing I saw was a pic of a giant snake in someone’s kitchen crawling into the microwave. I think this was a joke but I wasn’t sure enough not to be slightly scarred for life (all orifices in our American house are thus stuffed with poisonous cotton wool). I soon learned this was nothing. In the past week I’ve seen a blatant homophobic debate that looked like a Borat sketch. I’ve seen local businesses ripped to shreds! Nothing subtle, just a direct order from the poster for you NEVER TO USE said place or they will find and kill you (OK not quite).
Some seemingly nice, community spirited lady named and shamed a neighbour for parking his van on HIS drive and ruining the overall aesthetics of HER lovely garden. Commenters were split between sympathy, a very precise take on her legal stance and folks blatantly taking the piss out of her passive aggressive method of posting it on social media.
Then there are the scary videos of vandals, announcements of heroin needles found in parks and flasher lifeguards. There always seems to be someone in the comments thread posting a picture of some celebrity making a sarcastic face (my ego would break into a million pieces with a withering stare from Jada Pinkett- Smith, is there no greater diss?
Anyway, my net take out now is that friendly neighbourhood Facebook groups need to be approached with caution and used only to solve simple uncontroversial problems (or just viewed from a safe distance).
I’ve got no friends though, but still 😉