You know those lazy Sunday mornings when your neighbor comes outside in nothing but their robe and boxers to get the paper? Like a train wreck, you can’t help but look. He awkwardly waves at you. Shoot, he saw me! Most neighbors are the type of people you say “Good morning!” to (fully-clothed) and that’s the extent of it. Does the idea of talking to your neighbors on social media and seeing intimate details about their lives appeal to you? We didn’t think so.
A study conducted by the University of Kansas found that we prefer talking with our neighbors personally, rather than on social media outlets. In the past, people used to want high fences to avoid interaction with their neighbors. But now, with everyone’s business on every social media outlet, actually talking in person is more appealing than interacting with neighbors on social media.
The study, led by professors Bonnie Johnson and Germaine Halegoua, began to determine if a struggling neighborhood association could be saved by using social media. Johnson and Halegoua were not the first ones to conduct this type of study. Others that tried the same idea found that neighbors enjoyed talking using social media. Interestingly enough, the professors found a neighborhood that had the exact opposite reaction.
The neighborhood association they studied had been around for over 40 years and consisted of more than 500 houses. Over the course of the 2000s, neighborhood association membership dropped to less than ten people when it was once higher than 100. In an effort to make the association interesting again, Facebook and Twitter pages were created, but both received minimal traffic.
After neighborhood leaders sent surveys to homeowners asking why no one was participating in the social networks, the most common answer was neighbors felt uncomfortable talking and interacting with each other over social media. Many neighbors also wondered if they really needed social media to communicate when walking over and knocking on a door was not only more convenient, but more personal. Connecting with neighbors on social media is akin to connecting with certain co-workers. It’s uncomfortable feeling an underlying need to censor yourself before posting something.
While the study did find that smaller associations could benefit from social media, it is discouraged from being the only form of communication. In today’s age of constant connectivity, you could go as far as to say that some form of social media is a necessity for neighborhood associations. While it is easier to go next door for simple questions and small talk, when the time comes to organize major events or petitions, social media is the way to go. In short, join your neighborhood association’s Facebook page, but just unfollow the creepy guy three houses down.