This Valentine’s Day, love your neighbour instead!

valentines day

There are probably enough down-with-love and “How to have a sustainable Valentine’s Day” posts floating around today, so I thought I’d tell you about a new social media network that hooks you up…. with your neighbours.

No, it’s not a swingers’ club, so put those keys back in your handbag. Housenet is a network that helps you find likeminded people, make recommendations and share a bit of local wisdom.

In ye olde days, we would have actually, you know, talked to people and created community that way. But now we all have high fences, drive-in garages and the internet, so we have no choice but to hunt for our neighbours via satellites and distant servers. It makes perfect sense, non?

As humans, we are hardwired to connect. Life coach Kirri White says, “Many recent neuroscientific studies  show how our brains ‘fire up’ when we are connected or have a sense of belonging, and how our wellbeing and the actual wiring of our brains changes when we are lonely, isolated or lacking that social support.” (Read Kirri’s beautiful post about the fences we “strong women” build around ourselves here.)

So why the heck am I telling you all this on Valentine’s Day and what does it have to do with the environment?

Community equals survival

Not even survival: more like thirval. If that were a word. We humans thrive when we are engaged and connected with one another. Think of times of crisis, that awe-inspiring human spirit that rises to the occasion. Londoners going about their business during the Blitz. People opening their homes to strangers. Teddy bears delivered to evacuation centres.

There was a robbery on our street recently. The thieves took all our neighbours’ keys, along with the usual booze, valuables, smokes. We rallied – cars were loaned, other cars were parked around the victim’s work van so the thieves couldn’t gain access, locksmiths were called. For a couple of days, we were a real community.

Being connected to your neighbours is worth more than you can imagine when times are good. We Aussies may be great in a time of crisis, but we are pretty crap neighbours (OS readers: the TV show is not strictly based on fact). According to a study in 2010, more than 60% of us don’t know our next-door neighbours, but the vast majority of us wish we did.

Breaking down fences

Despite the fact 73% of us would like to know our neighbours better, there are significant barriers in place, and I’m not talking about Colourbond fences. There’s the awkwardness, the hassle of being involved in other people’s lives. The danger of neighbours being crazy or annoying or overstepping the boundaries. And my God, think of all the “hello”s and “it’s gonna be a hot one”s you’ll have to bandy about. Nope, it’s far easier to lock ourselves away behind closed doors and scurry out to our cars quick sticks.

But the thing is, community – by which I mean groups of people who live in close proximity and know each other on a basic level – protects you. Strong communities can fight crime, they are also more likely to fight for their corner if it becomes threatened by developers or if there is a problem that needs fixing.

Communities also tend to care more about their environment. They take more pride in the way it looks, and have more respect for the surroundings in which they live.

So back to Housenet. Founder Darren Moffat describes it as “social media for where you live”. Maybe it’s just the thing to help you break down the fences and connect with your community. Maybe it’s not. Either way, it’s an interesting idea and I commend Darren for taking the great people-connecting power of social media and applying it to grass roots level.

If you don’t need another social media network in your life, why not start a live-version? It’s Valentine’s Day. Why not throw a smile over the road, or lift a hand in greeting? Someone’s bound to like it.

Happy Valentine’s my lovelies, I wish you love and peace xx

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  1. Verity says

    I had to laugh at the irony of using social media to connect with next door neighbours, but if it works – it works!! There are so many studies around (including ones from seemingly inhospitable places like Bogota) that clearly demonstrate the social, economic and even health benefits of neighbourly interactions. Another online option for those looking to expand neighbourhood networks may be the local Buy, Swap, Sell Facebook page. The one in our local area is used for everything including a recent open invitation for the entire community to attend a wedding ceremony!

    Knowing your neighbours is a great way to reduce your environmental impact and boost peace of mind at the same time. Hopefully this new initiative will be successful:)
    Verity recently posted..Mindful Parenting – It’s Not Easy!My Profile

    • (dt)em says

      I love the Buy Swap Sell pages! There doesn’t seem to be anyone in my suburb hooked up to Housenet just yet, but I too hope it grows. Totally agree with you about the madness of connecting with neighbours via the internet!


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