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By Sarah Hughes

I admit I’m one of those people who’ve been sceptical about online ‘friends’. I’ve raised my eyebrows seeing a post on Instagram about ‘Instapals’ and wondered if we were all spending too much time online. Although I’m very active on social media as a blogger, I was of the opinion that online friends were fun; but real-life connections were the ones who would get you through tough times.

Then social distancing happened…

Immediately I started to worry about the elderly and vulnerable people I work with who would be totally isolated. Then I panicked about the nameless, faceless, innumerable people I didn’t even know. Being softer than a ruddy blancmange (my Dad’s words), I found myself in a downward anxious spiral.

Last Wednesday as I broke down in tears for the third time that day, my middle son who is seven, sidled up for a hug. “Don’t worry Mam” he said; “I know it’s sad, the good thing is though; we won’t have to wash our hands as much if we can’t go out!”

I suddenly had a lightbulb moment. If we could all harness Jonah’s positivity, his ability to look on the bright side of a rubbish situation; we could get through this.

That night my friend Chloe and I set up a Facebook group called #thegoodthingisthough and I put a shout out on social media inviting people to join and share the positives and the upsides to this new reality we were living in. I expected a few of our mutual friends posting the odd ‘keep your chin up’ message. But you see; I had totally underestimated the power of an online community! One week and eight thousand members later; a community is unashamedly what we are. Friends, confidantes, supporters, hell-bent on a mission to cheer each other up!

Some posts are heart-warming and joyous; like the lady who posted “#thegoodthingisthough I have my daughter back. I didn’t realise I had lost her in all the exam stress, but the light is back in her eyes.” Or the mum posting that her son who struggled at school had written his name by himself for the first time, clearly flourishing in his home-school environment. I could almost hear the cheers from all the commenters as they congratulated this super mum!

Then there are hundreds of downright hilarious posts, in the vein of “#thegoodthingisthough enforced lockdown means my dad has had time to find his false teeth that he lost three months ago. They were in his toolbox.”

Nobody cares about your age, race, politics, sexuality; as long as you are kind and inclusive and positive, you are welcome here!

If you are feeling low or vulnerable, I urge you to join our group. Get ready to laugh your socks off and feel the virtual flood of love from all our fantastic members. I’m already planning a huge #thegoodthingisthough get-together when all of this is over. I want to see if we get on just as well in real life!

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