I Liked My Neighbours – Until I Joined Their Facebook Group
My husband and I have been living in our current abode for exactly a year.
When we first moved in it seemed like a quiet, generic urban street just like any other. But we were quickly exposed to the tension that was bubbling just under the surface.
We gradually began to meet the neighbours as we partook in our daily dog walk. Much to my husband’s chagrin they would often stop us to make awkward small talk about the weather, the dogs and other such idle chatter. If there’s one thing my husband hates more than cold tea it’s strangers talking to him and pointless chit-chat.
Despite our extreme lack of enthusiasm we were soon extended the great honour of being invited to join the street's private Facebook group. Although the group had originally been created for a specific purpose, it had quickly devolved into a place for people to voice their petty gripes and make passive aggressive comments.
Hard rubbish left outside of a house for more than a day? That’s post-worthy. Someone on the street managed to spawn? Post-worthy (I already unfollow all my pregnant friends as a rule, I don’t need un-asked for baby pictures coming at me. I consider it a personal attack). People parking a tiny bit outside of the lines on our street where parking is at a premium? Many, many posts need to be made (this has also escalated from people leaving notes on cars to people spray painting their own parking lines on the road).
Sprinkled among these are the completely random posts of the kind that your crazy aunt might share on Facebook. At the moment there is some vigorous Ooshie trading going on. Who knew that something that will inevitably end up as landfill by the end of the month could cause so much excitement? (Woolworths, that’s who.)
The current preoccupation of the group is complaining about dogs barking under the concerned guise of ‘I’m worried the dog is barking because the owner is hurt and can’t get up’. If you legitimately thought someone was so badly injured they were about to be eaten by their starving and noisy hound, would you be complaining about it on social media, or would you maybe bang down their door to help them, or alert the authorities?
There are definitely several neighbours who post and comment more frequently than others, who endeavor to express their opinions on every minor thing happening in the street. Safe to say, in my opinion these people really, REALLY need to get a hobby (and maybe I need to get a hobby that doesn’t involve constantly checking my local Facebook group for laughs). A game of lawn bowls maybe, reading a book, taking up knitting, cooking all of Julia Child’s recipes from scratch -- really anything that is going to keep their hands busy and away from their keyboards.
One particularly vocal member of the group has made it her mission to badger the council until a footpath is built on our side of the street (other than the Facebook group, her main pastime seems to be writing letters to the council). I prefer nature to concrete (and I’m also super petty), so I decided to plant up the nature strip out the front of my house with natives on the sly.
I think illegally planting up the nature strip might be the most badass (and middle-aged) thing I’ve ever done. As I was finishing up putting in the last of the plants, said neighbor walked past and said to me, ‘You better make sure they’re protected’.
My paranoia is making me unsure if it was meant as helpful advice or a malicious threat.
Until I figure it out I’ll be watching my plants. And my back.
This article first appeared on August 25, 2019.