Why you need to be on Facebook during the COVID-19 Crisis

By Ed Kimble

In Arizona, we’re starting the second week of stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of COVID-19, but many of us are in our third or fourth week of self-isolation. Healthcare, government, business, social welfare and institutional responses to the crisis shift and change daily.

Southern Arizona Senior Pride is trying to help home-bound seniors (that’s ALL of us right now) find the services we need by posting articles and links to Web resources of importance to LGBTQ elders. But the COVID-19 situation is evolving so fast that the only reasonable chance you have of keeping up is through social media, specifically, Facebook. If you aren’t already on Facebook, sign up! If you’re already on Facebook, start following the agencies and groups that we’ve provided in our COVID-19 UPDATES these last couple of weeks.

Awesome Resources / Relief from Isolation

Nearly every organization focused on health, LGBTQ and/or senior services is on Facebook. When you like and follow organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Pima Council on Aging (PCOA) or Equality Arizona, you will have access to daily posts about news and events in response to COVID-19 that are likely to be more relevant than what you get in your nightly local or national newscast.

In addition, several local Facebook groups have sprung up in the past few weeks to crowdsource and share resources and news. Running low on toilet paper? Check out the Facebook group LGBTQ+ Tucson Give Help / Get Help – COVID-19 Community Response. The group has 493 members (and counting) and recent posts have offered cleaning supplies, cat food, job leads, rental eviction protection, small business financial assistance and, yes, toilet paper!!

Another helpful group right now is Tucson Helping Tucson. With 3,536 members, the group’s focus is helping local businesses survive COVID-19. But the group also hosts a weekly online video broadcast of local talent, and recent posts have featured low cost housing options and other information to help locals cope during this long stay-at-home period.

Want to lend a hand during the crisis? The Facebook group Sewing Masks for Tucson has rallied home seamstresses to make face masks for healthcare workers. Now that everyone needs to wear a mask in public, you can go here to find out how to make your own and make extras for family, friends and community.

Staying connected socially is especially important to mental health when we’re self-isolating, and Facebook is great at this. Reach out and invite people you like and want to stay in touch with. Follow entertainers and public figures, too; several are creating special new content to keep our spirits up.

Newbie?

If you’ve never been on Facebook, it’s free and easy to join. Just go to Facebook.com and follow the prompts to provide the requested info to create your new account. Since 2016 when Facebook became a tool for political division and misinformation, and we also know that Facebook is perpetually tracking and selling our personal data for marketing purposes, there is reasonable concern about providing Facebook our accurate personal info.

Providing fake account information is in violation of Facebook terms and conditions, and can get you removed permanently from Facebook. But I believe you can safely bend these rules a little, to make it a little tougher for trolls, hackers and spammers. You can provide a nickname instead of your full name (maybe one you had as a kid, so your childhood friends can recognize it at least). Anyone over 13 can sign up for Facebook, so feel free to knock a few years off your birth year. But you might want to use your correct phone number. If you don’t provide your correct phone number, you won’t be able to use your phone for 2-Factor Authentication (2FA), an option that prevents hackers from logging in to your Facebook account.

Wary of the Dark Side?

If you were on Facebook in the past and left because you couldn’t stand the nasty arguments over politics, social justice or the Kardashians, I understand your reluctance to rejoin. I left Facebook right after Donald Trump was elected President and stayed off. But recently I came back and found encouraging improvements. Facebook has changed how its algorithm decides what you see on your personal feed and it has given users more control over whose posts they see and interact with .

Look at it this way. Facebook is a business that delivers advertising by targeting consumers most likely to buy what they are selling. It figures out who to target by collecting data about how you interact with its content. If you don’t want posts about politics in your feed, don’t open or like posts about politics. Ditto religion, cooking, cute cat pictures, people behaving badly, etc. It takes a little thought, but you can cultivate your uniquely positive Facebook experience. Learn more here and here.

In a disaster, Facebook can be an amazing tool to connect people to resources and each other. Be mindful of its foibles, and make it work for you in this difficult time.

»Follow Senior Pride on Facebook!