An online make-believe world away from the coronavirus pandemic
Since the coronavirus outbreak has forced several countries into lockdowns, people across the globe have come to realize the little joys of what we normally consider boring. It could be standing in a queue at the theater or peeping into a stranger's phone on public transport (if you're into that). Fortunately, a few online groups on Facebook now offer an escape into the mundane.
Pretend you're at the same venue with 2,100 others
In May, Natalie Miller created "a group where we all pretend we're in the same venue" on Facebook. The 20-year-old American fast-food worker told The Atlantic that she had been missing live music as in the pre-pandemic life. Now, she role-plays on the 2,100-member group as someone who volunteers to hold a broken bathroom-stall door for someone who needs to pee, among other things.
What do people talk about on the group?
On the group, the conversations range from people losing track of their friends at a bar or a music concert to someone distributing earplugs at a live concert so everyone can "hear the show a lot better and undistorted," The Atlantic reported.
You can also pretend to work at a restaurant
On another Facebook group called "a group where we all pretend to work in the same restaurant," people take their pretend roles a bit too seriously. Stephanie Illetschko, a group member, told The Atlantic, "We aren't allowed to get out of character. At. All. Which means by being in that group you now officially work at our restaurant."
What other kind of groups are out there?
Several absurdist Facebook groups have emerged since the platform redesigned itself around groups. There are groups where people pretend to be running late or have to cancel plans, or where people role-play as a member of an ant colony (it already has two million members). There's also the optimistic "a group where we all pretend to be in 2021 and it's all good."
On most groups, you're not supposed to mention the pandemic
"A group where we all pretend to be running late or have to cancel plans" was reportedly created by three comic friends—Sarah Mowrey, Sarah Kennedy, and Genevieve Garcia de Mueller—in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The group forbids mentioning the pandemic life and so do several others.
'Such groups offer real opportunities for social engagement'
A communications professor at California Polytechnic State University who has studied role-playing games, Aubrie Adams, told the publication, "It might seem like simple make-believe on the surface, but the emotions and opportunities for social engagement are real." At such online groups, people can also find themselves running into strangers, as opposed to just hosting Zoom calls with friends and family.
'These groups ask the smallest, but most pressing questions'
Kaitlyn Tiffany wrote in The Atlantic, "While news coverage of the pandemic is preoccupied with big questions about how we'll eventually come out of the crisis, these groups ask the smallest and maybe also the most pressing questions people have about their lives: Will we ever again be sweated on in a crowd? Will we be frustrated by the length of a bathroom line?"