I am unashamedly a follower of Facebook, having first signed up when Kate was at university to "stalk" her and see what she was up to. I don't have many "friends" on Facebook as seems to be the case with the younger generation, but I have joined up in the last year or so to two local community groups. They can be useful for all sorts of information. People post beautiful photos or proffer history about the local area or will ask questions on a range of subjects from where to find someone to repair a washing machine or a leaking roof to whether a certain shop is still open during lockdown or not. There might even be warnings of car thieves about or road blockages. Like I say, the information can be useful and I often save the answers for when I might need the same advice in the future.
However, lately, the tone of the "conversations" has become very aggressive and personal. I get that people are frightened and stressed by current events. Lockdown is not easy for some and mental health issues, that some didn't even know they had, have come flooding to the fore. A lot of people are stuck at home, furloughed, or working from home with a young family to homeschool or even out of a job altogether. They're bored or stressed or terrified as each week the news ramps up the grim figures of Covid deaths and restricts our movements even further. Another tier. Another lockdown. More closures of this and that. More rules. It is tough, but at least we are all in this together, as we combat this faceless foe. Or are we?
Some of the posts people have put on these facebook groups have questioned why people are galavanting around the parks, towns and countryside other than to do essential shopping, when they should be staying at home or exercising close to home. I get that. As one who has been shielding since March, I barely leave the house except for once a week or so to post a letter and walk round the block carefully avoiding people, but I have put up with long stretches of isolation and inactivity, partly for my own health, but also for the common good to try to get to grips with the pandemic, so we can all get back to normal soon. Personally, I don't consider driving long distances to exercise a reasonable excuse, as exercise can be had in your garden or in close proximity to your apartment. I also think that in a middle of a pandemic, exercise should not really be classed as essential. A walk to the shops is a good enough workout especially if carrying heavy shopping, although I don't even do that, as I get online supermarket deliveries. The emergency services are already stretched enough without having to deal with car accidents or people injuring themselves doing daft things far from home. I think "stay at home" should mean just that. Lord knows the NHS is drowning as it is (a further post on that to follow any day soon). We should put them first and not insist on our individual rights to do what the hell we want in the name of freedom. There has to be some community spirit and putting others first, surely.
I have watched the arguments develop on these facebook threads. There are definitely two camps. The first camp contains those who selfishly refuse to wear masks, think Covid is a hoax or a joke and will go out when they want and where they want for as long as they want. "Stuff you, I'm not doing you any harm" kind of attitude. Then there are those who abide by the government's Covid advice for the benefit of the wider community. They think of others, stay home, wear masks and are appalled by the behaviour of the others. When the two sides clash on these facebook threads, the language and personal attacks get really nasty. The anarchists and nutters among the first camp obviously get off on irritating others and being aggressive which of course exacerbates the situation. On one thread this weekend alone there were over 700 comments going back and forth between them over 24 hours, which in the end showed human life form at its worst.
I feel disgusted by that first camp. I know how hard Kay is working at the moment in Intensive Care (14-hour shifts and only ten days' leave since last March). She is physically and emotionally exhausted and she would give anything to have some free time to relax, but these idiots who selfishly give no regard to wearing masks in the community or staying at home have made her job harder, and she is selfLESSly mopping up after them. It saddens and disgusts me in equal measure that in a time of real crisis, such as we are in, we are not pulling together and doing the right thing to end this pandemic once and for all.