Knowing your neighbors, and lots of of them is important.
Daniel Aldrich analyses indicate that neighbors and people in the immediate environment were important in surviving and recovering from natural disasters.
- Japan earthquakes - 2011 - It wasn't government intervention or first responders that saved the most people. It was neighbors who did.
- India tsunami 2004 - It wasn't money, or power that helped the most. The people who were doing best after the disasters were those who knew lots of people; those who were most socially connected in their community.
If you use facebook as a measure of how socially connected we are to our neighbors, then the news isn't so great.
According to "Social networking sites and our lives" quoted in this NPR report, on average, people only connect with 2 neighbors on facebook. Facebook appears to be more useful for re-connecting with existing social networks (family, friends, co-workers, former classmates, voluntary organizations) but not establishing new connections with people who share a sense of nothing but place.
In this report they suggest using the "Front Porch" social media application designed to connect people only from the same community.
But that application has only been rolled out in a very small sample of communities.
So what can folks do in the meantime?
- Start or participate in a block group or neighborhood association.
- Pass out flyers to ask folks on your block to bring a dish to pass at a summer block party outdoors.
- Introduce yourself to 2 neighbors. Ask your neighbors to introduce you to their neighbors.
- Organize a group ticket price for a local sporting event and ask neighbors to meet there together.
- Ask neighbors to join in on a block garage sale.
- Start a walking club on your block.
Whether or not you connect with these neighbors on facebook, at least you will know each other! When you are comfortable, exchange telephone numbers or email so you can connect with each other in multiple ways.