Strengthening neighborhoods with ... Facebook!

SHN group pic

Facebook gets a bad rap, but where I live, it has brought neighbors together, and it started because of the things I didn't want to share.

About five years ago, my high school class in Wisconsin was reuniting, which brought me dozens of new out-of-town Facebook Friends. I also had business clients in my Facebook circle, which made me reluctant to post questions like, "Why is there a helicopter circling my house?"

Not wanting to broadcast local questions or discuss school board candidates with everyone I knew, I started a neighborhood Facebook group with about 20 of my friends. They were encouraged to add their friends, as long as everyone was somehow connected to our zip code. Today, the group has nearly 2,000 people, and has become a fixture of life in my area; but we're not unique.

Neighborhoods around the country are using Facebook as a way to stay connected and help keep an eye on each other, as cited in this piece from The Mercury News, or the many Neighborhood Watch Twitter feeds.

The police in our area are not permitted to have an official account on our page, but there is anecdotal evidence that they follow it. Our Neighborhood Watch officer recommends Next Door which bills itself as, "The private social network for your neighborhood."

Beyond neighborhood watch, my community uses the page like a local referral service, and to discuss school issues, support small business, and welcome newcomers. We don't settle disputes among neighbors, and we don't decide who gets in and who doesn't. Along with my co-admin (I needed help after a while), the job is to lifeguard; keep away spammers, bot accounts, and personal insults, while maintaining a civil tone of "neighbors talking to neighbors."

This ongoing conversation is not without trivialities and drama, as people use the internet for different reasons, and personalities readily clash over the internet. What my neighbors and I have learned by doing this, is that it is not only very handy to ask your neighbors "Who's your handyman? (or chiropractor or favorite bagel place)" but it changes your relationship with where you live, even if all you're doing is attaching names to faces, and having a little chit-chat every now and then.

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  1. It's worked really well for our neighborhood.
    We have one that is for organizing our monthly "happy hour" and posting general stuff. Once a month someone has an open house and whoever wants to come brings some food and drink to share.
    We have another one that's sort of like a neighborhood watch thing where people post when there have been issues, someone is canvassing our streets, etc..
    And one more is dedicated as a spot to post photos and names of our pets so we'll hopefully know in case someone's missing.

    Last year we used FB to corral everyone for our 30th high school reunion. It made it MUCH easier than last time. Even people that weren't on found out because we were able to share info so I could contact them.
    We were all able to instantly upload photos and videos to a dedicated page for our class. Was a lot of fun.

  2. Ugh - I couldn't disagree more. Now I see how petty and ignorant my neighbors are, and I realize that I am living in the wrong neighborhood.

    If I just smiled and waved as I drove by and never heard them spewing shit on facebook I would love my neighborhood. Instead I realize I am surrounded by psychotic gun-waving lunatics.

    Ignorance was bliss.

  3. hhype says:

    We have a closed group for the parents for my son's school. It is actually a good place for people to ask questions about missing homework, trade school uniforms, complain about cyber snow days, fundraising and all the other stuff that. There is only a few hundred people and is one of the more useful things that facebook can do. You need to be a parent to join and the moderators keep the spam to a minimum, except our own fundraising spam, which is seemingly unavoidable for US schools anymore.

    I think these micro hyper local networks are one of the true benefits of the internet and social media.

  4. I see my neighbors almost every day.

    They get my end of the common driveway plowed, and I clean both of our car parking areas up with my snowblower afterwards. They've watched my dog for me.

    My other neighbors, I called the cops on them when they were parking cars in the road (I spoke to them nicely twice first). We still wave at each other and I helped dig one of their cars out after a recent storm.

    I often run into even more neighbors on dog walks, and I admit to knowing their dogs names.

    I've lived here 6 months. There is one immediate neighbor I have not met. So, yes. People DO know their neighbors. If they choose to.

    edit: having reliable neighbors is a different matter entirely!

  5. My neighborhood has a very active Facebook group, which I enjoy reading. Yep, some of those people are wackadoos, and occasionally things get ugly, but there's also a lot of people helping each other find lost pets, etc. And if something's going on, there is always someone who knows what's up (or they think they do).

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