Quarantine Chronicles Day 10: Social media mellows and actually becomes helpful in the coronavirus crisis

It’s Day 10 in self-isolation. Must be some sort of a gift-giving occasion, even if it’s just a paper anniversary. Paper is gold these days.

One good thing I’ve noticed about the fact that so many million Americans are being forced to stay home is that social media, at least on some sites, is actually becoming more helpful after so many years of serving as little more than a tool for divisiveness and drive-by bickering.

Nextdoor on Wednesday still had its minimum daily requirement of coyotes and suspicious people in hoodies, but there was nevertheless a spike in helpfulness — “Johnny Reb’s has TP and milk, eggs, bread, fruit, veggies, juice, right now,“ and assorted other news about who’s got what on their shelves. In many cases, I suspect, just a brief helpful comment about, say, Sprouts having toilet paper, will cause enough of a run on the place that when most people swing by it’s already gone.

There was even some levity, which on Nextdoor is sort of like finding out the old grouch who lives in the house on the corner is actually a funny guy once you get to know him:

“Well I finally lost it!!!!!! earlier today.

“Was in Walgreens and saw a guy whose cart was FULL to the brim with hand sanitizers, baby wipes, soaps, everything that people need!!

“I called him selfish and gave him a low down about the elderly, moms, and people who need these types of things. Told him he should be ashamed of himself! He said: ‘Are you done? Cause I really need to get back to restocking the shelves now!!’”

Might not have been a true story—if it were true, the customer would probably have said, “No, here, I’ll just switch baskets with you.” But it’s a good story, anyway.

A few sites devoted to the coronavirus and its trusty sidekick, the lockdown, have begun popping up on Facebook as well.

The group Coronavirus Awareness: Bellflower, Lakewood, Paramount, Norwalk, Long Beach is a comprehensive clearinghouse for all manner of concerns, from school news regarding meals and Chromebook distribution, to companies currently hiring (mostly Costco and grocery stores), to where to find essentials at any given moment, including many you might not have thought of like corner liquor stores and bodegas and restaurants that are selling meat and produce, such as Norm’s, where you can buy care packages that contain all the ingredients (uncooked, you’ve gotta do some of the work) for breakfast or dinner for your family of four or more for $35.

The breakfast meal kit (15 eggs, one pound each of bacon, sausage and ham, two pounds of hash browns, a half-gallon of milk or juice biscuits and fresh fruit) even includes a roll of toilet paper. Other kits include steak, hamburgers, fish and salads. The only caveat is the offer’s only good while supplies last, and, for Long Beachers who are living in a Norm-less era, you’ll have to travel to Downey or Bellflower. But, hey, no traffic. These days you can get anywhere in 15 minutes or less (more about that in a future column about the bright side of the coronavirus, which we’ll write as soon as we can think of a couple more bright sides).

The page, refreshing in its sheer helpfulness and mostly devoid of griping and complaining, also has a list of major stores that are open early for seniors and/or pregnant women, disabled people and first responders. No guarantee of short lines at any of these places, especially Costco where, in Cypress, anyway, the pre-opening line practically reaches the back stretch of Los Alamitos Race Track.

Long Beacher Teresa Weber-Freeman administers the new Facebook Locked In page, which is a place where you can “feel free to post any locked in stories that you’d like to share…funny, sad, serious or heartfelt; tepid or wild, meandering or brief… and post photos, videographies, poems, music.. anything that you want, just keep it clean.”

And that’s what it is. There may be a tip or two, but mostly it’s a place to share your feelings and thoughts about self-isolation, with maybe the odd video of your pets who are perhaps the happiest creatures of all in Isolationland.

And, then, there’s me. Please keep the comments and emails coming at [email protected], or @grobaty on Twitter and Facebook. Unless, of course, you’ve got something better to do.

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.
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