In a time of extreme divisiveness, people from all around the country have finally found something they can agree on: The zany, outlandish conversations and arguments that unfold nearly daily in hometown Facebook groups are often a great source of entertainment.
Gripes about city services. Grumblings about new buildings going up. Questions that can easily be Googled. What’s the deal with all those helicopters circling overhead?
No online community forum is immune to the strong opinions or contentious issues that crop up — and the cutthroat responses that usually follow.
Mashpee resident Anthony Varela realized this several days ago after a TikTok video he made highlighting and deconstructing a particularly ornery discussion on a page for Plymouth residents racked up more than 3 million views.
As the video ricocheted across the Internet, he received messages from hundreds of people about the dramatic or humorous posts in their own neighborhood groups. The flood of responses gave him an idea: What if he created a Facebook page specifically for sharing those tales?
Welcome to “The Town Facebook Group Ridiculousness,” a comedic clearinghouse for “the ridiculous stuff you see in various town Facebook pages.”
“There’s a town Facebook group for almost every city and town across the country, and all of them are like this,” said Varela, 31. “And anyone with a sense of humor enjoys that aspect of it.”
As of Wednesday, more than 6,000 people had joined the page, complete strangers brought together by a shared fondness for the laughable proclamations that get posted by neighbors only to descend into a cauldron of biting retorts and petty squabbles.
“The bickering and stuff on Facebook is insane. And I thought it’d be good to poke fun at it and make light of it,” said Varela, who works as a community outreach coordinator for a substance abuse center. “People are really enjoying it and liking it.”
Varela’s journey to creating the Facebook page began earlier this summer. At first, he started making TikTok video reactions to the eyebrow-raising “Missed Connections” posts on Craigslist, an online forum he calls “the weirdest place on the Internet.”
In June, he shifted focus and read a discussion thread from a Falmouth Facebook group about a woman upset by the loud noise coming from a local bar — especially when she had a headache.
“People came at her throat quickly,” Varela says in the video, before doing a rundown of the intense reactions while mixing in his own impromptu humor.
The video was viewed more than 500,000 times, and its success prompted him to search for similar content.
“That took off,” he said. “So I joined some more Facebook groups because people seemed to like it.”
Varela later did deep dives into Facebook posts about people lighting off fireworks in Falmouth; someone angry about slow pizza deliveries on Martha’s Vineyard; and residents concerned about a Wendy’s being built in Mashpee — all read in his distinctive Boston accent.
“There’s all this really crazy stuff going on the world,” Varela said. “And a Wendy’s going up in Mashpee gets people going crazy. It blows my mind.”
But it was last week’s video about a resident who turned to a Plymouth Facebook community to help her boyfriend pick up some side work — and the vicious reactions her request received — that sparked the idea to collect the interactions in one place.
At the end of his TikTok video, Varela asked viewers to send him screenshots from their local town Facebook pages. He wasn’t expecting the clip to get 3 million views and lead to “thousands of people sending me stuff.”
Overwhelmed by the response, he started “The Town Facebook Group Ridiculousness” so people could post them there, instead of his inbox.
Within hours, fans started pouring in from across the country to read what people have found while trawling online community groups or to share some gems of their own.
“This is pure gold for me because my state has some good” posts, one person wrote on Varela’s Facebook page this week.
Among the most popular posts were one about a resident who asked neighbors to be on the lookout for her runaway dog who likes to eat cigarette butts; a comment thread about long lines in a Walmart that devolved into a heated political argument; and a woman who claimed her grandmother put a curse on the scoundrel who stole a Buddha statue from her yard.
If posts in the group are particularly entertaining and get enough attention, Varela said he plans to read them aloud in dramatic fashion in future TikTok videos.
But at this point, it might be hard to choose from the surplus of offerings.
“There are so many ridiculous ones,” said Varela. “It’s funny how Mashpee or Somerville, or towns in Massachusetts — you think they’re so different from a rural place in Arkansas. But really, at the end of the day, there’s ridiculous stuff happening everywhere.”