Bill Oglesby remembers the first time he got on Facebook.  It was back in the inchoate days of the platform, when it was restricted to those with a “” email address. As a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, he qualified, despite his daughter’s protestations that he was interloping into her generation’s space.

Even so, he recalls being excited about this new online forum where he anticipated a healthy and civil exchange of ideas and information. But it was altruism that didn’t last, and the memory now evokes a mild chuckle, as Bill reflects on his naivety. 

“I had this idea that it [Facebook] was going to bring us together, people with different opinions and different ideas — not that anything would change each other’s minds, but at least we’d be listening to each other,” he says. “I was not anticipating the vitriol that would arise out of Facebook or the idea that people would feel somehow that their very existence was being challenged by hearing different points of view.”

At one point, some exchanges among his Facebook “friends” (which included people he had never actually met in person) grew testy, and for Bill at least, uncomfortably so. That’s when a half dozen of his Facebook followers hatched an idea that, looking back, was almost a prelude to One Small Step.  Let’s call it “One Small Sip.”

“Prior to COVID, there were about six or seven of us on Facebook, and we were having exchanges that were not always positive, and certainly there was a lot of disagreement, and it got to a point where we were starting to regard one another as enemies,” he recalls.  “But we decided to get together, and we went to Capital Ale House to finally meet face-to-face over a beer.  And you know what?  There was not a single angry word uttered during that meeting, and after a beer or two, I’d say we parted as friends.  It was a very positive experience.”  

And so, when Bill heard StoryCorps Founder and President Dave Isay speak at the Richmond Forum, he could look back on a similar experience that would validate the concept.  And even without the beers, he recalls looking forward to a conversation with someone new, someone who turned out to be similar to him in many ways – white, law school educated, around the same age.  And their differences politically turned out to be less pronounced than he had anticipated.

“What stands out about our conversation was actually the number of times that each of us said, ‘I agree with you,’” recalls Bill. “Looking back on it, we were both really working so hard to find that common ground that we didn’t get too deeply into the differences.”

As if to come full circle, Bill ended up sharing a post about his OSS experience on Facebook, a post that generated interest among his friends who subsequently expressed an intention to sign up themselves.

So, a toast to Bill, and we’re glad that his daughter didn’t keep him off Facebook.