Community Facebook Pages are my Kardashians
by Evie Raja | September 1, 2023
“Did anyone hear strange noises at 4.00am this morning?”
During one long night spent under the UV lights of Hertford’s (soon to be demolished) windowless library basement, I decided to join my local community Facebook page. In doing so, I hoped to feel the warm, albeit virtual, embrace of my suburban haven and stay up to date with the local village happenings.
Admittedly, my expectations were low. I anticipated scrolling through community ads and the occasional laugh from a Mumsnet-style post by Lynn, Jane, or Sue. This may seem harsh, and a little unpatriotic to the only place I’ve ever called home, but maybe you’ll be more forgiving after I tell you that TripAdvisor awards our local parish church second place on their “5 BEST Things to Do’”list. Ten things was clearly too ambitious. Apart from being voted “one of the friendliest places to live in the UK” seven years ago, my village leads a relatively anonymous life, with only a handful of features even in local news outlets. I don’t want to seem ungrateful for this middle-class utopia — I have a lot of love for my Brownies childhood, village fêtes, and the unstaffed local library. Still, it’s hard to feel connected to a home with such a small digital footprint.
Unexpectedly, I soon found myself hooked on the daily lives of the page’s seven thousand members, most of whom have at least twenty years on me. Whilst my friends were posting Oxloves, I was silently absorbed in the local drama of backyard drone crashes and panicked 3am posts (“did anyone just see a shooting star or am I hallucinating?”). I sought wisdom in Sunday poetry features such one which pronounced: “Your mind is connected to the universe, as long as you keep off the gin.” I have never been one for reality television, but Lynn, Jane, and Sue have slowly become my Kim, Kylie, and Kendall.
One of my favourite episodes has been a recent series of posts by lets-call-him-Nigel, the first of which started rather alarmingly with:
“Thank you to everyone for the thoughts and the CCTV shots of the missing boys. They now have trackers fitted so we should be able to find them if they manage any more Houdini stunts.”
Maybe you’re better-versed than me in pet/parent vernacular. I, however, thought my village had become a Happy Valley case. In part two, ‘the boys’ escaped onto a golf course and backup was called in the form of a back-garden barricade. Not to worry though, they are now safely tucked up on the sofa! The comments section was filled with support for Nigel by those who shared in the pain of having ‘delinquent children’ (Labradors).
Meanwhile, another resident, lets-call-her-Clare, had been kept up in the early hours of the morning:
“Bit of a weird one but did anyone hear strange noises at 4.00 am this morning?”
“Heard sounds which were almost alien sounding like a dull bell being struck and then a whooshing sound.”
“We were woken up by it and it was so weird…there were no other vehicle sounds!”
I was actually a witness to this one and was similarly perplexed by the noise, but rationalised that we lived in the last place on earth which would experience an Independence Day-style emergency. Twenty-two comments of support and investigation later, the noise was attributed to local rail works. Londoners, I warmly welcome you to the excitement of suburban living!
However, it’s not all drama and gossip in these groups — there is also a lot to be learnt. Have you ever heard of a perimenopausal facial? From antenatal therapy to advice on the best way to connect the washing machine waste pipe to the drainage pipe, this group has shown me an unglamourous side of adulting that rivals Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love. £20 scarecrow starter kits and guessing what will go in the old Sainsbury’s have become my grounding tool against:
“I have a better response rate on LinkedIn than on Tinder”
These community groups provide a tangible network of support. I was touched to see a concerned daughter post on behalf of her parents (who were feeling lonely having just moved to the area) inquiring about “clubs and activities they could get involved in” as they “really need some new friends.” Beyond this, with the both niche and wide-ranging communities that have been cultivated in the meta-verse — from “do we have the same boyfriend/girlfriend?!” to the birth-control device support group that eventually led the FDA to question its approval — Facebook groups certainly achieve their goal of helping to “create connections and build a deeper sense of community.” Although my interests lie with the slightly less important concerns of local busybodies, the comfort these groups bring are nonetheless all built on this foundation of virtual commonality.
As an anthropology student, perhaps I’m biased in arguing for the entertainment value to be found in these neighbourhood pages. For the unsettled, I promise it’s merely an academic endeavour! I know not everyone will be able to find inspiration in an advertisement for next Saturday’s 16th-and-17th-century dance demonstration or Debbie’s urgent message:
For the faint-hearted, I suggest sticking to life-drawing events and craft beer. Yah-ing your way through conversations on Maison Margiela’s 1989 Spring/Summer collection may be safer territory…
Words by Evie Raja.