One year later, social media show us that fear and phobia are still with us.
A woman who has been renting a house in East Falmouth with her family told her flight-from-New York City COVID story. This woman, who asked to remain anonymous, did not initially heed the urging of her parents, who are off-Cape Massachusetts residents, to leave Manhattan and come to the Bay state.
When schools shut down and people were asked to work remotely, however, the family left the city on March 19 (she remembers that it was the vernal equinox) and came to an Airbnb in East Falmouth. Having spent a week every summer on the Upper Cape, she knew the area and felt that Falmouth would be a good place to hunker down for a few weeks.
“A year later, we’re still here,” she said. “We kept extending the Airbnb, and we finally got a one-year lease.”
Looking for community after arriving last spring, she joined the Facebook group Fabulous Falmouth, where she asked: “Are there any other New Yorkers here who would like to start a sub-group?”
While some who responded on the site said nice things, her question set off a barrage of “go home” messages.
“They said we would buy up all the waterfront property—I couldn’t afford it,” the woman said, that we will jack up taxes and “bring disease to the Cape”; that we will “try to get rid of the New England clam chowder and blanket the Cape with Manhattan clam chowder.”
“Just don’t try to turn the Cape into what you left behind,” one person said. “That’s mostly what us natives ask of newbies moving in.”
“Don’t expect this to be New York; if you want New York, go back,” said another.
“I don’t think us Falmouth residents want to hear about nor discuss New York,” said yet another.
“People said that there is COVID on the Cape because New Yorkers came here,” the woman said.
The worst of the negative posts were removed by the moderator, she said, but not before she saw them.
“I hid from the Facebook thread,” she said. While more writers supported her than attacked her, “The nasty people on Facebook make me not want to post,” she said. “I wonder, would these people say these things to my face?
“I was shocked at the vicious negativity,” she said. “I find it very odd; it seems very misplaced. I grew up in Massachusetts and I have never seen anything like this before.”
A year into the pandemic, attacking comments about New Yorkers continue to be posted on the Fabulous Falmouth Facebook page. The moderator continues to remove them.
In addition to verbal assaults on Facebook, the woman and her family have encountered assaults in public as well, while picking up food at one of their favorite take-out places.
“When the employee was bringing our food out to us, a guy in a pickup truck said, loudly, “You’re not going to serve those filthy New Yorkers, are you?” To be sure we had heard, he said it again, just as loudly.
“I have never had anyone talk to me like that,” the woman said. “I wondered, ‘Is this guy going to get out of his truck and hit me?’”
The woman has a car with a front license plate but no rear plate. She has learned to park in a way that hides the front plate.
She said she gets the impression that people in the Fabulous Falmouth community are saddened that their neighbors behave this way, and she believes it is primarily a social media issue—she has not experienced verbal attacks from her neighbors, or from people at her daughter’s school.
“Facebook facilitates how easy it is to be vocal about being judgmental,” she said.