Leather bomber jacket

A leather bomber jacket, passed along to a new owner via BuyNothing.

A few words on social media. I’m not going to get mired in the meta-mess that is Meta, the New&Never Improved Facebook. That’s well-trod territory. I admire and envy friends — known and cyber — who swear off. (Although I am baffled by those who switch to Instagram, arguing that it is, somehow, a less compromised option.) I fear I fall into a crowded camp: Those millions of us who find ourselves outraged, if not terribly surprised, by revelations about the company, yet can’t envision our work or world without it.

For me, Facebook is an extreme stand-in for a lot of social media sites. They seem to represent the best and worst of the digital era. All warrant a Buyer Beware mentality. But I wonder if even the savviest among the media literate can keep up with the bouncing balls of algorithms and agendas.

So my word on social media? BuyNothing sites.

I’m new to this community. A niece recommended it some time ago. She’s raising a son as stretchable as Gumby, and is always on the lookout for something that fits or engages him. I was skeptical. Then another friend — ironically, on Facebook — mentioned it when I was looking for places to donate my sofa. I did some research and tiptoed in.

I’m sure there will be hiccups. And apparently there is some schism between the original BuyNothing groups that live, ironically, on Facebook, and a spinoff with fewer rules. But I have found the rules of the site I’ve tapped a plus. Everyone seems to play by them. The group I was allowed to join is strictly determined by my address; I wasn’t allowed to jump over to a community three blocks away. The give-and-ask culture has its own language and etiquette. What has stood out to me: Giving is unconditional; descriptions are honest; asks are respected; and nothing ever veers into politics.

Maybe that’s what has me enchanted: No politics! I’ve met a few neighbors I otherwise wouldn’t have. I’m having coffee soon with one of them, a young woman from Romania, after we discovered we have mutual friends there. She now has my never-worn, wrong-color-for-me wool wrap scarf and headband. I might see someone walking by the house in Mountain Editor’s old bomber jacket, which he volunteered as a give. My pledge to myself going in was I was going to give, not get. And with a couple of practical exceptions, I’ve stuck to that. Most of the standard donation sites, like Goodwill, have been overloaded during the pandemic; the one near me now screens everything brought in, which makes sense, given how long people have used it as an alternative landfill. I have set my own standards on what I offer up, so far gifting or re-gifting unworn clothes, idle appliances, unhung art. No dryer lint or pickle juice from me, although after reading the recent New York Times story, I’ve been paying closer attention to giveaways my neighbors post, and what gets snatched up. Pretty much anything.

I steer away from promotions. This might not be for you, and might someday be corrupted, as so much else is online. I’m not even offering a hotlink to the site, trusting you to do your own research. But I’ve found it a welcome dip into what I have always thought social media was meant to be: A community, not a cesspool.


A version of this post originally ran as a Storyboard newsletter on Nov. 5, 2021.

Most popular articles from Nieman Storyboard