In the first weeks of March 2020, the world came to a halt like nothing we have ever seen before. COVID-19 infections were increasing across the globe, and health officials didn’t know how the disease was spread, who was most at risk, or even how to stop it. Country after country began to lock down, and more people than ever before began to work from home. Only essential businesses were open, and people from all backgrounds were tasked with one thing: to stay at home.
Barbara Duriau, a freelance artist living in Amsterdam, wanted to do something to alleviate her loneliness. She hadn’t seen her friends in weeks and was stuck in her apartment. She posted a photo on Facebook from her apartment window with the time, date, and location, and then she asked others to do the same.
What started as a simple way to connect with her friends on social media blossomed into a Facebook group which quickly gained over one million members by the end of March. People from all over the world have joined this group, called “A View from My Window,” in order to share their own views and enjoy the views of others.
The Group’s Rules
Currently, the group has amassed more than 2.2 million members, which has led to a specific set of rules. First, you can only post once, so you have to choose your photo wisely. Second, it can’t be cropped, zoomed, or modified in any way; no panoramic pictures are allowed, no pictures of food, drink, or other people. The photo can’t be a square, and it must be true to the view from your own window.
The rules have not stifled participation or enthusiasm. Thousands of photos from every corner of the world have been shared on the group page. Some of the posts are beautiful scenes from nature — tranquil lakes and greenery — and some are more mundane, featuring brick walls, windows to other rooms, alleyways and trashcans.
The Immediate Appeal
Many have speculated on why this group is so successful. First, in a time when travel is highly restricted, people have been able to see the world with these photos. One post takes you to the snowy mountains of Nepal, then the crystal-clear beaches of Greece, then a rooftop in Spain, or a small garden on a balcony in Canada. And you aren’t seeing the tourist view, but the reality of what people see every day— views they might not realize are special until someone else finds beauty in them.
Second, it builds community. Duriau said that she shared her first photo because she realized that everyone had the same view during those first few weeks in March— the view from the window of their house. Quarantine may be take place in isolation, but that doesn’t mean that we were doing it alone.
Building Community Through Kindness
Another feature of this group is the interactivity. Not only do viewers get to travel the world while being stuck inside, but on every post, there are hundreds if not thousands of comments from people saying hello.
“Hello from Bergen, Norway,” one person says in response to a post from Ohio, USA.
“Such a magical view. Best wishes from Oakleigh, Melbourne Australia,” another person comments.
It is as though the original post allows people to say, “I am here.” And the comments are members of the community replying as if to say, “We are here, too … we are together in this.”
Some posts reflect on loved ones lost, and how people are finding strength day after day. Condolences come in droves, and like a group therapy session, members of the group finding community and solidarity from people around the world. They share a common bond of looking out the window, wishing to be outside, but choosing to stay inside to protect others. While the views may be different, the feelings are universal— and it makes the world feel a little less alone.
The Future of the Group
The group is still active— in fact, there are so many who want to share their views that the group has a backlog of new posts, all being approved as quickly as possible by the team of moderators that were assembled. With the number of members still growing daily, it is hard to keep up. All they ask is for patience — all posts will be uploaded eventually.
In the meantime, Duriau has also published a coffee-table book compiling some of the group’s favorite images with the original posts noted. The intent of the project was undertaken to give the group a second life while cataloging the incredible phenomenon that is this Facebook group. It’s 400 pages of photography and insight from the four corners of the world, all from a moment in time that irreversibly changed the face of the planet.
You can join the group here and celebrate views from around the world or share your own view and connect with people all over the world who, like so many of us, seek the comfort of connection.
Look to future blog posts delving deeper into more of the science behind the phenomenon.