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Illustration by Wenzdai Figueroa

The majority of Facebook chat messages I receive fall into one of two categories: spam or some sort of viral post or video, almost always shared with me by an older female relative. When it comes to the latter category, my mom is usually the person who pops up most in my inbox with a steady stream of cute baby animals and articles like “Why You NEED a Roth IRA If You’re a Millennial.”

No matter what she sends, I always appreciate her thinking of me (and honestly, has anyone really lived until they’ve seen a baby goat?), so when she suggested I join a Facebook group called View from My Window I did.

In her message, my mom didn’t give me a detailed description about the group other than to say that it involved people sending photos of the views from their homes in various parts of the world and that it was “really, really nice.”

When I joined the group, I expected my feed to be slowly filled with the type of posts my mom usually sent me — things that were nice, but not necessarily surprising or emotional, like sunsets or cute dogs. These are the things that might make you say, “Well, that’s nice,” but didn’t necessarily move you.

I’d open my Facebook app in the morning to not only see views of rolling hills, ocean vistas, and cityscapes but also views from shipping container ships in the middle of the ocean, or someone’s “beautiful” view being the side of a building. Whether the view was my personal description of paradise or looked vaguely similar to my own simple backyard (aka a 3-by-6-foot patio), it was the comments that made me smile.

I’d see my mom’s name pop up in the comments with always the same version of, “Beautiful! Hope you are staying safe! Sending love from Sarasota, Florida.” Almost all of the comments were like that: gentle encouragement and a simple note of where that encouragement was coming from in the world. Thousands of tiny, simple reminders that other people were suddenly sharing the same view.

I’d read about how this group had changed people’s perspectives on their own lives and helped them find beauty in the mundane. I’d often cry when reading people’s reflection on how their beloved cities have changed in the face of COVID-19, or how they find comfort in their gardens after the loss of a loved one.

As a freelancer writer, I spend most days on the internet. But as a person with anxiety and a human being living in a major city, the endless stream of headlines, bad news, and fear that the internet can sometimes provide is often overwhelming.

Facebook, in particular, can be a place where comments on posts often feel more like a battleground than a welcoming, or even informative, place. If you’ve ever spent time typing and then retyping a response to an offensive, backward article a distant relative posted, then you probably know the feeling of logging off of Facebook and being exhausted, like you’ve just spent 20 minutes screaming at total strangers who aren’t listening to you anyway.

Most days, there’s simply no escaping it. No matter which social media platform you’re on, you’re bound to encounter a pocket of strangers screaming at each other in all caps. It becomes automatic to feel frustration in regard to the state of the world (and with other people) than it does to feel hopeful.

So it was shocking to find myself finding hope in this straightforward, completely wholesome Facebook group. It gave me joy, even.

In a time where most of us are trying to find ways to escape reality, “View from My Window” does the opposite. It connects me regularly to a fresh perspective: that the view so many of us may be getting sick of as we stay at home — might not be so boring to someone else. That little 3-by-6-foot patio that I stare at every day, all day, may not be a sprawling mountain landscape or the bow of a sailboat, but View from My Window has made me realize that it holds value all the same.

Whether from a shipping container, city apartment, or sprawling farm, I’m seeing people from all different little corners of the world trying to find new appreciation for the mundane in the purest of ways. When I’m in this Facebook group, I get to imagine all 2.3 million members, sitting in front of our computers, trying to make the best of it. As disconnected and isolated as I may feel at times, View from My Window highlights the kind of connection I can have that doesn’t have to be based in fear or anxiety.

As testimony to this connection, the group became so large and inundated the group’s founder closed it to new members and submissions. Due to the quality and number of submissions, the founder has even created a Kickstarter to turn these photos into a book for permanent documentation of these quarantine times. Oddly enough, the thing that makes COVID-19 so very terrifying is the exact thing that makes it seem bearable: It’s global.

(You can still join the group if you’re invited by someone who’s already a member, but if not, you can still browse the posts — and I suggest you do.)

There’s no one in this world who doesn’t share the underlying anxiety or the fear. We are all bound by this terrible thing, but as all those images of mountains and brick walls and open oceans have reminded me, we are bound all the same. On paper, this might seem scary or overwhelming, but for me, it’s a daily comfort and a healing, persistent reminder of perspective.

Olivia Muenter is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer and digital content creator. Follow her on Instagram or through her website.