A respected social scientist has claimed that several local community Facebook groups are running the severe risk of falling in on themselves in the coming weeks, as suburban areas come to grips with the COVID-19 pandemic. Professor Joanne Lancaster has told The Watsonia Bugle that increased online activity in times of crisis brings out the best and worst in people, and some pages are starting to lean towards the worst.

Professor Lancaster reported seeing an increasing number of seemingly well-meaning posts that are actually just an opportunity to promote an individual’s good deed, and that could eventually prompt people to turn to more traditional avenues of information and community support – such as alcohol, the letters section of the Diamond Valley Leader, and angrily screaming at the moon. She said, “It’s a bit like that old tree falling in the woods metaphor. If you performed a good deed in your community, was it still a good deed if it isn’t broadcast to thousands of people on multiple social media platforms? Sadly, it seems some people think not, which is tolerable at first, but the novelty wears off fairly quickly.”

While the positives and negatives of such groups are well-documented, we have entered unchartered waters in the last week, leaving the long-suffering page admins unsure how to proceed. Professor Lancaster suggested that it could be the admins that break first.