"My organization, more active than ever with COVID, would struggle to find community were it not for Facebook," says my friend Abby who runs a TimeBank organization, where people exchange services with each other.
The Facebook platform, which quickly caught on when it debuted in 2004, attracting 6 million users within 18 months, becomes especially critical when the usual community as we know it is on hold, when we are yet desperate for reliable sources of global and local information, when we need to stay connected with family and friends, when we are looking to others to see how they are handling a pandemic, sometimes in the middle of the night.
Are you OK? Am I OK?
If one friend isn't awake, another one is.
In the weeks since the pandemic hit, messaging across the platform's services increased 50% in countries ravaged by the virus, says MarketWatch.com. Video messaging on Facebook's Messenger and WhatsApp more than doubled. In Italy, time spent on Facebook has soared 70% since it was hard hit by the crisis.
Even former Facebook deserters are on again, including those who supported a 2018 #DeleteFacebook campaign. The anti-Facebook movement was fueled by a scandal involving the political data company, Cambridge Analytica, which collected the personal data of 50 million Facebook users without their consent and used it for political advertising purposes.
Returning users include Scott Scott Erickson of Texas who got back on when he found out he had COVID.
"It really showed me that for a lot of people, Facebook is the only way they know how to stay in touch with people," Erickson told c/net.com. "So now I'm using it very resentfully."
Not everybody loves everything about Facebook. Besides the Cambridge-Analytica fiasco, people were turned off by Facebook allowing fabricated articles to be posted as if they were true. Both concerns have since been duly noted, with Zuckerberg testifying before Congress to be more diligent. In an effort to stem the tide of Covid misinformation, in April, Facebook enlisted the help of 60 fact-checking organizations to help weed out misinformation about COVID-19 and began warning users about liking and posting fake stories. The organization went so far as to create a COVID-19 Information Center, an evolving collection of facts about the pandemic that are allowed only after being checked by a news team.
Still, trust in a corporation, once lost, is hard to regain. There's also ugly politics on the site; disagreeing family members; "trolls" who get their kicks out of going on people's pages and spewing venom; and just downright mean-spirited people looking for a fight.