Founded one year ago in the wake of the first pandemic-related travel restrictions, a Facebook group called “View from my window” has become much more than just a way to peek into other people’s back yards.
Very early on in the global pandemic that would relentlessly keep the world in its clutches, photographer Ajit (AJ) Rekhy, an India-born and Ontario-based work-from-home mother, had a brilliant idea: she created “View from my window”, a social media group where members could show pictures of what they were looking at during lockdown. The underlying message was, “You are not alone!” First hundreds, then thousands responded.
Now, one year after the creation of the group, and with travel restrictions still largely in place in most of the world, the community has grown to over 250,000 members and counting. Most of them are US- or Canada based (and the diversity of North America alone is truly astounding.) But all in all, the group spans over 100 countries.
Although this is not the only Facebook group of its kind or even its name, this one has a special feel to it. AJ has accomplished something beyond the presentation of spectacular sunsets and beloved pets: her group has forged a real community spanning the globe where members are kind and supportive of each other, with a good number even having become friends in real life.
There is a true sense of “we’re all in this together”, there are no man-made divides of borders, religions, or social class. Birthdays or holidays spent in lockdown are celebrated with the entire community. The tone is kind and supportive. It is very rare that someone show offs and gloats demonstrably, maybe sensing that ostensibly displaying material wealth or boasting of liberties that others may not be able to enjoy is collectively unwelcome.
Occasionally a group member shares a sad story of misfortune, sickness, or even the passing of a beloved human or pet, and the community will rally around them protectively. Not everyone has instagrammable vistas but even the most humble photo still receives encouraging comments and sincere compliments. What you can make even of a plain view, has been shown by Carrie from Minneapolis, Minnesota whose touching photo was the fan favorite in our 2020 article:
This show of solidarity and “team spirit” makes of AJ Rekhy’s group something much more important than a continued feed of pretty pictures – it offers respite from an increasingly rough und unfriendly world, and has become a valuable tool in the arsenal for preserving psychological and mental health throughout the ongoing challenges. The site has also tapped into the creative talent lying dormant in many hobby photographers. And on occasions, it showcases real artistic skill, as shown in this enchanting video by a bird loving group member:
To honour the occasion of the group’s first “birthday” and to celebrate the amazing resilience of people around the world, from all walks of life, RIVIERA BUZZ has revisited with AJ and rounded up a new set of photos… spectacular ones, funny ones, heartwarming ones, modest ones, peaceful ones, classic ones, quirky ones… across seasons and holidays, and even the odd calamity, all tell a story in themselves. It is no small act to invite total strangers in the intimacy of one’s personal little world, often shared with cherished pets or lovingly tended plants which bring cheer and joy to reclusive lives.
Despite the human distance, these photos build digital bridges, and give a sense that for all the horror on every news channel, every day, much is still right with the world. To increase the radius for contributors wishing to post repeatedly beyond one’s front or back yard, acceptable photos now also include those taken from a car, bus, or train, office, or even a hotel room.
The group is actually a spin-off of AJ’s original FB page after moving from Toronto to small town Sarnia in 2018 in the wake of her husband’s professional transfer. She herself started working from home. After such a big change in lifestyle – from the bustling metropolis to a town of 70,000, and from a fulltime corporate career to a home-based job – , she felt isolated and started an FB page as a creative outlet to feature her photography.
When the pandemic hit, she immediately understood how suddenly everyone was suddenly going through a similar experience… a busy world had come to a sudden halt, and people were forced to stay at home. Creating the View from my window page was therefore a logical extension.
AJ, what was your impetus to create this group?
Since the beginning of lockdown, most people’s freedom of movement has dramatically been limited, it ends at their backyard or front yard. I realized that almost everyone now feels the same as I was feeling back in 2018 when I decided to work from home. At that time in 2018, it was my decision to purposefully to stay home. But a year ago, the pandemic forced the whole world to stay home. Everybody’s views were limited. We cannot go outside, but we can share our views and feelings.
What has touched you the most over this past year, on a personal level, and in the group?
Over the past year I learned to trust my intuition. It is such a powerful feeling when you finally realize you don’t need anyone else but yourself to survive. Sometimes we just need a break, alone, to figure everything out.
We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone. Since last year, we have been socially distancing and are touch-deprived, and so we all are stuck with our electronics. My Facebook group realizes me that if we can’t change things by fighting the existing reality, we should build a new model and get used to it. It’s very delicate to change yourself.
What audience constitutes the core of your group?
Surprisingly, most of my Facebook group members are over 45 and are most active in posting, commenting, laughing, suggesting, and if needed supporting, and that is very touching to me. Engaging them and getting the best out of my members satisfies me.
Keeping the group running smoothly creates a huge amount of work for you. What makes it worth the effort?
From a few to over 250,000 members in one year is a big deal – approving numerous posts every day and giving feedback on every declined post is time consuming. I receive lots of complaints via messages as well. Thankfully I found supporting moderators from all over the world to help me run the group.
But all the effort won’t matter if I am not inspired. It’s a 24/7 learning, dealing, and motivational experience for me. It is very important to get feedback, where you can constantly think about what you have done and what else you can do. I receive a lot of positive feedback almost every day, which inspires me to keep going and put more efforts into the group. Without knowing each other and meeting personally, people are so truthful in their comments, which sometimes surprises me, too. They are really bringing their best to this group.
And finally, would you share the view from your own window with us?
Yes of course, with pleasure.
RIVIERA BUZZ would like to thank the group members for kindly granting permission to feature their images here. We have tried to publish as many photos as possible but could not select all that had been submitted. The ones shown here were randomly drawn from a hat, with only one contribution that we specifically requested. Anyone not having their photo shown here should still feel included in spirit. The photos were posted with a first name and general location only to preserve their authors’ privacy. Stay safe, stay at home, stay connected!
Lead photo courtesy AJ Rekhy