Social media is a cesspool. It's also a repository for good memories, a massive photo album and virtual bulletin board where strangers can become friends, or at least get to know more about the character of their town.
Community pages on Facebook showcase stories of neighbours helping neighbours.
A quick scan earlier this week finds someone asking and getting answers about which bus her daughter can catch to school; the best way to treat scale on a lemon tree; and how to opt out of receiving a hard copy of the Yellow Pages.
There are lost pet entries, free fish frames and fruit, shark videos, beautiful places to explore, and sadly, more and more people desperately seeking a rental home.
Earlier this month, Pāpāmoa resident Lisa Cowan shared her idea for a new community group called It Takes a Village: "Being a sole parent, I dislike Mother's Day and Father's Day as it is just a reminder that I am conquering this parenthood thing by myself. Parenting is not an easy job, but it's even harder when you are doing it alone."
Cowan quit a fulltime job to parent her 5-year-old son and work part-time as a cleaner. Her goal is to create a local Parents' Day.
"I would like to spread a whole lot of love in the community and for those parents doing it alone, I would like to make them feel loved and appreciated for doing what they do."
She said 2400 people have seen her page in the first week.
As a result, Cowan has a list of businesses donating items or services.
So far, she has received vouchers for massages, facials, house cleaning, lawn mowing, food supplies, cafe and restaurants meals, hampers, photography shoots, movie tickets and more.
Cowan held an Easter egg hunt at Motiti Reserve last Sunday and has scheduled a free family event on May 2 at Golden Sands School.
"The main goal for this page is just to create a network that all parents (not just sole parents) can get together, make friends and support each other."
Another mum on Facebook recounted how vandals had damaged her son's new bicycle just two days after he got it for his birthday.
She took the bike back to Cycle Obsession in Mount Maunganui, where staff fixed it for free.
"This is what local connections and community spirit is. It's seeing a need and helping where you can," wrote the grateful recipient.
Not everyone gets assistance. One Bay woman who posted a long wish list received zero comments.
And we've all heard of cases where someone raising money for charity uses the funds for themselves.
These are exceptions, in my view. For each person who uses the internet for subterfuge and self-enrichment, there are dozens more donating money to causes, offering to fix a broken step, or providing free goodies like feijoas and flowers.
Studies about social media's impact on mental health abound.
Most of them seem to indicate we're at risk of becoming tribal zombies after paddling in Mark Zuckerberg's toxic swamp.
And while many researchers have linked teenage social media use to depression, the way adults use it may have more of an impact on mental health than just the frequency and duration of use.
A Harvard School of Public Health report last year found everyday social media use is positively associated with three health outcomes: social wellbeing, positive mental health, and self-rated health.
But emotional connection to social media that leads to checking apps excessively due to fear of missing out or feeling disconnected from friends when not on a device is negatively associated with those three health outcomes.
It could be, as research scientist Mesfin Awoke Bekalu is quoted, that routine social media use may compensate for diminishing face-to-face interactions in our busy lives.
It provides a way to overcome time and distance barriers. We can connect with new people, reconnect with old acquaintances and friends and build our networks.
"On the other hand, a growing body of research has demonstrated that social media use is negatively associated with mental health and wellbeing, particularly among young people—for example, it may contribute to increased risk of depression and anxiety symptoms," says Bekalu.
He says research over the past 15 years has shown benefits and harms associated with social media use varied according to demographics, socioeconomics, and race.
Users who were younger, better educated and white fared better than those who were older, less educated and part of a racial minority.
We need to set limits on device use for ourselves and our kids.
And technology giants should be held accountable for what happens in their forums.
They must de-platform fear mongers who sow lies or encourage violence, and cull information that is false, misleading or puts people in harm's way.
While much of the cyber world is still a swamp, today I'll tune out the snarky comments, racism, misogyny and lies.
Today, I'll focus on people who help neighbours and strangers. Better yet, I'll take a tech break and tell someone in person how fabulous they are.