Year full of tragedy saw triumphs play out on social media as we begin to recover from COVID-19

In her latest column, Metrolinx head of media and public relations, Anne Marie Aikins, looks at how the pandemic – and society’s continuing triumph over it – played out on the social media she uses to reach countless of customers and followers. Here’s how it unfolded, using her favourite posts.

Many of us spent more than a year in worlds that grew very small.

We lost touch.

And some lost loved ones.

As someone who not only uses social media for my work as the media and public affairs face of Metrolinx, but also as a way to expand my own understanding of the wider world, I’ve been fascinated how my feed reflects days we will never forget

Right now, customers are cautiously returning to GO Transit and UP Express as restrictions slowly get lifted. Behind their masks, we can see how relieved and happy they are to be back in the real world beyond their computer screens.

Seeing activity at Union Station again made me think about the conversations and stories on social media, that kept our worlds from becoming too small.

Each is a piece of history now, no matter how insignificant some may appear.

We started off the year with a new American president and quickly became smitten with mittens and Bernie showing up on a GO train. Well, not exactly but we did have some fun like everyone else did creating our own U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders mittens meme.

Image shows Bernie Sanders on a GO train.

The Metrolinx Incident Command Team has been working so hard since the pandemic began so many months ago that when I saw this image for a moment I thought they’d gone to the dogs – some real fur babies and others not so much.

Image shows Metrolinx officials showing off their dogs on a virtual meeting.

One of my most emotional moments this past year was having the privilege of helping Romina, a young woman in palliative care achieve a wish and drive a train.

A social post of Romina's tour by CTV News.
Romina Asrani holds a GO bear during her recent tour of an UP Express train. (Anne Marie Aikins photo)

Then there was Vaccine Day and GO vaccine clinics, which I helped out as a volunteer, and marveled that we were all seeing history play out – one that would be recounted for generations.

GO bear and Verster pose for a photo.
Metrolinx CEO, Phil Verster, and GO Bear during the vaccination event. (Anne Marie Aikins photo)

Speaking of vaccines, like millions of other Canadians, the day I received my second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine was a pretty memorable day.

Anne Marie Aikins proudly shows proof of her COVID 'jab'.
Anne Marie Aikins proudly shows proof of her COVID ‘jab’. (Metrolinx photo)

I lost an NHL bet and it landed in the Montreal Gazette and I had to endure even more gloating from my cousins.

Anne Marie shows her Montreal Canadians shirt on the Montreal Gazette site.

We launched new weekend fares – $10 for one day or $15 for the whole weekend – as we know you are eager to see family and friends and explore the region. And clearly you are loving it as Union Station has been much busier much to the approval of our frontline staff.

Twitter can be a lively forum to exchange ideas and often a place to take shots at folks. With a friendly barb in mind, I decided to give Netflix a bit of its own medicine.

Toronto Mayor John Tory’s ever-growing hair took on a personality of its own and subjected him to media scrutiny. His good nature and self-depreciating humour about it helped me feel better about my own unruly pandemic mop.

Mayor Tory shows off a hair band.

Metrolinx launched a long-anticipated, often-requested online store to satisfy transit fans and it definitely didn’t disappoint.

A dog wears a GO bandana.

Some of these posts seem small and some are perhaps bigger. Some have been funny and others sad.

But as I recently looked back on them, including gathering them for this column, I realized something else. They have become a bit of an historic document – a diary of remarkable and memorable times.

Story written by Anne Marie Aikins, Metrolinx head of media and public relations