It's A Beautiful Day
July 11, 2012 12:14 PM   Subscribe

Why You’re Not Friends With Your Neighbors. 'After building neighborhood social networks in more than 3,000 communities across the U.S., Nirav Tolia has learned just how many different things neighbors can accomplish. Using Nextdoor, the site built by Tolia and his team, neighbors get burglars arrested, investigate possible water poisoning, and stop the installation of parking meters. They lend one another ladders and grills, recommend babysitters, and upload videos of locals. But the one thing they’re not looking to do is make friends.'

'“You’re not friends with your neighbors,” Tolia says. “You don’t want to be friends with your neighbors… The communication is a lot more high fidelity if the context is clean.

“With your neighbors, everyone can get fired up about the pothole, and that’s something that your Twitter followers and your friends and your business colleagues just don’t care about… On Facebook, I’m going to be posting about my birthday.”'

'Tolia might be on to something. A Pew study released last year found that neighbors comprise just 2 percent of a typical American’s Facebook friends, eclipsed by high school and college buddies (31 percent), family (20 percent) and coworkers (10 percent).

At Topix, a favorite online gathering place for small-town Americans, the community discussion boards aren’t tender or cuddly.”Mostly they’ll fill it up with stuff like interpersonal gossip,” says Topix CEO Chris Tolles. “Once you get beyond like two doors down, that person is outside of your general social interaction… People kind of know each other, but not really.”'

'This sort of targeted action happens to be an area where Facebook is weak. Observers like social software guru Clay Shirky believe goal-oriented online groups will be behind the next reinvention of social networking, particularly after social media played such a prominent role in the Occupy movement and in the Arab Spring.'
posted by VikingSword (76 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

 
That makes a lot of sense. I want to have an element of reserve with my neighbors. I want to be able to discuss problems with them for example, but I also want to have my private space.
posted by happyroach at 12:17 PM on July 11, 2012 [13 favorites]


Glad I live in Vermont where this isn't true.
posted by terrapin at 12:17 PM on July 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


My downtown LA neighborhood has a Yahoo group for our block. Same diff.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:21 PM on July 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a Vermonter transplanted to Seattle, and I've been very pleased to find that the folks around me are even more reserved than I am, resulting in a respectful insulation of indifference that sort of acts as a virtual isolation.
posted by herbplarfegan at 12:23 PM on July 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


interesting. our neighborhood uses several by-invitation moderated collaborative Google tools to manage stuff like block watch and local-area news dissemination. The consensus has been strongly against moving to these neighborhood-oriented social startups, and the reasons given boil down to:

a) Facebook sucks and cannot be trusted to manage personal information in an equitable and transparent way, therefore I won't participate in any further social-network sites

and

b) who keeps the meth dealer down the block from learning about me and my family and where we live in a geographically-oriented online social-media site?

as well as the differing online usage behaviors of our senior neighbors.

Anyway, interesting post and topic.
posted by mwhybark at 12:24 PM on July 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


That's interesting. I've actually just started noticing more locally targeted groups on facebook - there's one for a group trying to rejuvenate the street I live on, for instance.

herbplarfegan - well put, I also like that about Seattle.
posted by jacalata at 12:25 PM on July 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


We use Nextdoor in my neighborhood (just started) and have another private, hood-only, social network as well. I love it...we may not be bosom buddies with people but you know who is around you, you can instantly get out an announcement about a lost pet or a crime and you can buy and sell gently used items very quickly. Find babysitters, sell tickets, plumbers, etc.....it's my go-to for all those things. Even if you aren't making lifelong friends....this kind of community building is very valuable.
posted by pearlybob at 12:27 PM on July 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's quite a rant against Topix in the comments of that Wired article, interesting allegations.

Also, can anyone find a link or source for the Clay Shirky quote?
posted by jacalata at 12:31 PM on July 11, 2012


mwhybark-
That is why only elderly people should sell meth.
posted by herbplarfegan at 12:31 PM on July 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


I tried to start a community Google Group when I was VP of our HOA a couple of years ago. I think I got like 4 of the 55 homes to sign up. Then, I've lived here 10 years and don't even know the names of the half the people on my cul-de-sac. It's a weird neighborhood.
posted by COD at 12:32 PM on July 11, 2012


I don't get why you need a social media site to talk to your neighbors. They're next door, ring the bell and say hi.
posted by octothorpe at 12:34 PM on July 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Wow, this is a huge topic with us right now. We're having a lot of trouble with boundary issues with our neighbors, and by boundary I don't mean property lines. Even after owning a home here for years, many are quite offended that we want simply to be on cordial terms, not friends. Even some newer neighbors who've moved in since we have are part of the problem: they fit into the social clubbiness of the block and have been hairy-eyeballing us like the rest for maintaining some reserve, declining most social invitations likely to involve alcohol, and limiting the depth about which we talk about ourselves.

But the alternative can be an incredible mess. I find them overly familiar, overly curious, and inquisitive to an almost interrogational degree. Interestingly, the one or two Asian families on the (otherwise lily-white) street are exempted from this treatment and are permitted some social space.

(Been thinking about doing an AskMe on this, but I'm not really quite sure what my question is.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:34 PM on July 11, 2012 [8 favorites]


I live out in the country, and I walk my dog (and neighbordogs often join us for an impromptu pack walk) every day. Because I'm out and about so much I know all my neighbors, at least at a smile-and-wave level. It is unlikely that more than a few houses in the Holler have Internet access.

The residents in the Holler all get along pretty well; there's no drugs or thieving and everybody watches everybody's back. I suspect that's because none of us are friends. Differences that might cause friction like politics or religion are simply not addressed. After all, the Holler isn't a cocktail party where you can circulate away from people you don't like. I've lived there seven years and I'm still considered a new arrival.

The ideal neighbor minds his own business until there's something he can do to help.
posted by workerant at 12:36 PM on July 11, 2012 [16 favorites]


I know that not every neighbor is the guy who has bodies in the basement or is a pedophile, but local news makes me want to eliminate any chance of being the person who says, "He seemed like a nice guy." I want to be able to say,"I never knew him or saw him around much."
posted by discopolo at 12:38 PM on July 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Neighbor doesn't always mean the "people you can walk to and borrow a cup of sugar". Our neighborhood in Atlanta is about 5-6 square miles, a lot of folks. It's nice to be connected with folks who may be 5-6 streets away. I know the folks around me well.....I like to hear the news from the rest of the area.
posted by pearlybob at 12:39 PM on July 11, 2012


I'm not sure why this whole "talk to you neighbors" or "be friendly with your neighbors from time to time" thing seems so old fashioned these days. When I was growing up I knew most of the families on my block and was always friendly with them. We didn't have barbecues all the time or anything, but we would stop by and say Hi if one of us was working or playing in the yard. These days, everyone seems so unfriendly.
posted by promptcurry at 12:39 PM on July 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm not friends with my neighbor because she wants all our trees cut down.
posted by telstar at 12:40 PM on July 11, 2012 [15 favorites]


I don't necessarily want to be friends with my neighbors, but I have lived my entire adult life being a complete stranger to my neighbors. And the effect is that I am basically in a little bubble of going it along regarding community issues, and so are they.

I recently started a Facebook group for the apartment building I live in. About 1/8th of the entire building is a member now. I have posted useful facts, the history of the building (which is fascinating), and I regularly post events that people might be interested in. I encourage building residents to post stuff they are doing, so that other residents can know about it.

It's not much. But I don't feel as disconnected anymore, and, should something come up that effects us all, I have a mechanism to communicate it. That's miles better than I used to have.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:40 PM on July 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


Gossiping and shooting the shit about potholes and other mutual concerns does not seem like entirely unfriendlike behavior. It actually sounds like what would go on at any local watering hole or community event between people who are on a first name basis with each other. I wonder if Facebook has managed to redefine the meaning of the word "friend".
posted by XMLicious at 12:46 PM on July 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I thought the first episode of season two of Louie addressed the issue of why you should be at least acquainted with your neighbors pretty well.
posted by VTX at 12:47 PM on July 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


> I wonder if Facebook has managed to redefine the meaning of the word "friend".

I think in terms of digital social network status, they have. I immediately took "friends with your neighbors" in the context of this article to be Facebook friends.

As for my neighborhood, there isn't really an immediate watering hole (there are a few) and depending on which groups I'd want to hang out with, it would vary.

I've been eyeing NextDoor because when I moved into my house I was traveling so much no one thought I lived there and that it was still for sale. Finally I've gotten to meet some of my neighbors, but I would like for the chance to be able to communicate with them in a way that is simple and not without me having to hunt them down or go door to door with cookies.
posted by mrzarquon at 12:49 PM on July 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


My next door neighbor on one side is an alcoholic former bus driver who had to be carried out on a stretcher once or twice and whose yard is full of weeds higher than my head, and on the other side is a constantly-changing cast of young adults who rent the house and whose dog barks all day long because it's shut in the basement. Neither side really talks to us, and neither do any of the new folks, mostly white, who have moved into the neighborhood because they think it's going to be gentrified soon. They don't meet anyone's eyes. But we have our network, which is based on the fact that my husband will sit out on the front step and talk to anyone, and we always know what's going on. Don't need no Internet to know that K got her car stolen because she keeps leaving her keys in the car, or that the reason the ambulance keeps coming is that the woman in the middle house falls down when she's drunk.
posted by Peach at 12:54 PM on July 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


I don't particularly like that you have to give your street address in order to find out if NextDoor is available for your neighborhood.
posted by Peach at 12:57 PM on July 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


On our very first day here the guy at the other end from us berated us for parking the moving truck overnight across 4 spaces instead of...I guess blocking the entrance to the area with it.

We've since noticed that the four spaces we parked in are never used by anyone at night. Except him, and even so there are always other spaces.

He opened the conversation with a lie* about having taken "four or five nasty notes off your windshield this morning." I asked for the notes, so I could apologize to anyone I'd upset. He told me he "kind of threw them away." After that, he called me a stupid bitch.

That's why we're not friends with our neighbors. (Actually, the couple next door are really nice. They introduced themselves and a few days later rescued our umbrella that blew away in a storm.)

*I've never called him on the lie, but I know that I was out looking at the truck at 2am and 4am and 6am because I couldn't sleep. (yay anxiety!) There was never a single note on the truck.
posted by bilabial at 1:07 PM on July 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


For whatever it's worth, Jane Jacobs devotes a fair amount of "Death and Life of Great American Cities" to talking about how thriving city neighborhoods work because the people living in them can set up relationships with each other that don't involve everyone knowing everyone else's personal business, but that are nonetheless close enough for the participants to be meaningfully helpful to each other. She considered the potential for these in-between relationships as one of the greatest strengths of cities over small towns...
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:11 PM on July 11, 2012 [15 favorites]


Your street address *and* your email address. Do not like. Cross streets should be enough.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:11 PM on July 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


I am not friends with my neighbours so that I can feel guilt free when walking around my house naked (hey - don't look in my windows if you don't want an eyeball full of ugly).

I am also sure my neighbours are convinced tha I am some sort of quiet bachelor serial killer. I see them practicing their tv new interviews. "Why, I had no idea Mr Helmutdog was a murder! So quiet and polite. But he kept to himself. Alot."
posted by helmutdog at 1:11 PM on July 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't particularly like that you have to give your street address in order to find out if NextDoor is available for your neighborhood.

I'm not clear on what "available for your neighborhood" even means, unless it's that they have access to map data about the dwellings. I checked using a nonexistent email address and an address a block or two away. It didn't let me proceed until I used the address of a real house, then told me it was "available" but not in the sense of anyone having set one up for the area already.

Anyway, creepy gratuitious let-us-monetize-you quality seems nonzero, at least. I'd be tempted to set something like this up as an alternative to the overly intimate relations my neighbors seem to want, but for now I'll pass.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:15 PM on July 11, 2012


I don't particularly like that you have to give your street address in order to find out if NextDoor is available for your neighborhood.

Just enter your neighbor's address.
posted by rocket88 at 1:24 PM on July 11, 2012 [13 favorites]


I don't particularly like that you have to give your street address in order to find out if NextDoor is available for your neighborhood.

Your street address *and* your email address. Do not like. Cross streets should be enough.

Wow, timing. I just signed up for Nextdoor yesterday, and I started seeing "welcome Person X to Nextdoor Boystown!" emails in my box this morning. I admit, it freaked me out a little when I noticed that names/addresses were published in the emails.

I sent a note to the site asking them to please delete my account because it weirded me out a little and I didn't realize that was part of the deal, and I got a very nice reply back — which didn't feel like a form letter, but an actual response — with instructions on how to tweak my profile so that only my address shows, only my name shows, or, I could tick a little box that said "show neither." When I ticked "neither," my name disappeared from the map, and the map got a whole lot more "general area of where my place is." (She had also offered to delete the account if I wanted, and there was no hard-sell to keep me; it was respectfully written.)

You can totally tweak this site to keep your privacy at the level you feel most comfortable.
posted by heyho at 1:25 PM on July 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


“You’re not friends with your neighbors,” Tolia says. “You don’t want to be friends with your neighbors…

Maybe that's true in the suburbs but living in the city, I know scores of my neighbors and am friends with many of them. We have block parties in the streets, monthly meetups at one of the local bars or restaurants, clean-up days, bowling nights, neighborhood outings to the baseball games, we sit out and watch movies projected on a sheet hung up on the side wall of my next door neighbor's house. When we first moved in, the retired lady across the street threw a stoop party in our honor and about twenty of us sat on chairs on the sidewalk in front of her house drinking beer and wine until midnight.
posted by octothorpe at 1:31 PM on July 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


I don't particularly like that you have to give your street address in order to find out if NextDoor is available for your neighborhood.

Just enter your neighbor's address.

[wipes coffee off monitor] Thanks rocket88 :)
posted by ElGuapo at 1:32 PM on July 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know, maybe it's because I grew up in a small town in the South or maybe I'm just a misanthrope, but I deeply resent the current confusion between the ideas of being polite and being someone's friend. I can wave or smile and nod to you, or ask you how things are going, or even check in on you when I haven't seen you in a month. None of these things mean you are my friend. I am merely being polite and fulfilling the role of neighbor (or coworker.)

I have noticed that more and more people confuse these polite behaviors with actual friendship. Just because we are forced by social convention or proximity to interact with each other on a regular basis does not make us friends. Can this casual politeness evolve into real friendship? Yes, and that's lovely. But please, please stop assuming that because I am nice to you, I need to be your friend. Let the friendship naturally develop. These things take time. Don't force it.
posted by teleri025 at 1:32 PM on July 11, 2012 [27 favorites]


A couple years ago, I visited some distant relatives in a tiny, isolated little village in rural Romania where everyone knew everyone else and were *constantly* getting in each other's business, gossiping, offering unwanted advice over recipes, marriage, child-raising, etc. You couldn't do anything without others finding out and trying to push or pull you in some direction.

I can't imagine that kind of social relation going well here in the US when you have the Muslim family living next to the Tea Partyers living next to the bondage enthusiast living next to the Evangelical pastor living next to the cat lady. So lately I'm beginning to think that the only way we can maintain multiculturalist ideals is through these kinds of distanced, impersonal relationships to our neighbors.

My next-door neighbors, whom I've lived next to for the past 23 years, are super-conservative and stuffy, and still call the cops on us when we play music outside (rather than simply walking over and politely asking us to turn it down a little). That's when I sometimes long for a cozy, tightly-knit community where everyone bakes brownies for each other and lends their lawnmowers.

And then I remember the movie "Dogville" and decide to lock all my doors and close the window curtains.
posted by adso at 1:34 PM on July 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm not friends with my neighbor because he thinks that acting nice and friendly towards me during the day excuses him cranking his subwoofer at night. It's that really transparent Manipulation 101 "if I act nice to you from time to time, you'll feel guilty at the thought of getting me in trouble" thing, which doesn't work at all to keep me from calling the cops, but he clearly interprets me being polite as me buying into his fake niceness shtick and I don't want to encourage that.
posted by jason_steakums at 1:36 PM on July 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Good fences make good neighbors.

Also, that Topix website is a cesspool.
posted by dave78981 at 1:37 PM on July 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm good friends with a 3 of my neighbors, friend-ly (will say hi to them on the street and strike up a casual conversations if we're out walking our dogs at the same time) with about half a dozen other families, and not social at all with the rest.

Why? A myriad of reasons...
1. They're assholes (their dog shits on my lawn and they don't pick it up, are inconsiderate of their neighbors, etc.)

2. They're nice enough, but we just don't have much, or anything, in common.

3. Our schedules just don't jive (they work nights and sleep during the day, etc.)

Just kinda how the dynamic goes.
posted by prepmonkey at 1:42 PM on July 11, 2012


I'm kind of wondering what the definition of, "friend" is, and how it's changed, since ye olde tymes, when in small villages, you absolutely depended on the trust and work of your neighbors to like, you know, make it through the year. I understand your local neighborhood isn't a Scottish Clan, or anything, but being reserved with your neighbors always seemed weird to me. There's a threshold where this just isn't true (going DOWN). Small towns are different than big cities - same way I don't say hello to everyone walking down the street in NYC.

For a social species, we do have quite the ruleset on when it's OK to not be.
posted by alex_skazat at 1:48 PM on July 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just enter your neighbor's address.

The neighbour renters who sit on their porch drinking, watching me work on my house, and offering 'helpful' advice, even though they've never lifted a damn finger on their place, and their back yard hasn't been raked in five years and maybe they could get on that sometime?

Done and done.
posted by Capt. Renault at 1:48 PM on July 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


We just signed up for this, and are awaiting 3 more members to make the group official. I actually live in a neighborhood where, when we were moving in, people from 3 streets over were stopping to welcome us.

I used there "Send a postcard" feature. It seems less intrusive than trying to track down email addresses and such.

This is new, so I don't know how it's going to work out. But, I am willing to try because I really like being friendly with my neighbors. Just friendly, not friends.
posted by waitangi at 1:50 PM on July 11, 2012


Whether it's germane or not, there have been two neighborhood-oriented discussion forums in my city, and in both cases I couldn't stand most of the posts for my part of the city because they were weirdly racist. Clearly, a certain type of person self-selected for membership.
posted by Peach at 1:52 PM on July 11, 2012



I'm not clear on what "available for your neighborhood" even means

Yeah, it looks like they have loaded this with pre-defined "neighborhood" data, which is interesting because neighborhoods aren't actually an official thing. I have often wondered where the neighborhood data comes from in applications like Yelp or TripAdvisor that use neighborhood data - I know there are vendors like this one but I'm not really sure how competitive that space is or where they get their data from. When you drill down to the city maps here the neighborhoods named are somewhat reasonable although I've seen a couple of weird typos that indicate that they aren't using exactly the same data as, say, Yelp is.

And then I guess if you don't like their predefined neighborhoods they will let you define your own little contiguous geographical area and name it however you want to? If this were to scale that could eventually be an interesting data set on its own - resident-defined neighborhood boundaries.
posted by yarrow at 1:52 PM on July 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure why this whole "talk to you neighbors" or "be friendly with your neighbors from time to time" thing seems so old fashioned these days. When I was growing up I knew most of the families on my block and was always friendly with them. We didn't have barbecues all the time or anything, but we would stop by and say Hi if one of us was working or playing in the yard. These days, everyone seems so unfriendly."

Depends where you live. Was Skyping to my dad (in Ireland) last week and then our next door neighbour randomly appears into dads bedroom asking to borrow a wrench. My dad, in pyjamas, acknowledged him, confirmed its location, and continues chatting away to me not missing a beat as if this was the most normal thing in the world.
posted by Damienmce at 1:52 PM on July 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


I didn't see in this article what is for me the most obvious reason why I'm not friends with my neighbors, which is simply, why would living next door to someone somehow cause me to feel socially compatible with them? If you took my nearest 15,000 neighbors, chances are I'd have enough in common with or have some emotional compatibility with maybe two or three of them. So what are the chances that the people living on either side of my dwelling, or even on my entire street, are people I can connect with on anything more than a cordial level?

Or if the issue is how one defines friendship, well, I don't know, I guess I might be friends with one of my neighbors, since we exchange Christmas gifts, but he's not a friend in the way that I'd ever define friendship.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 2:10 PM on July 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm Facebook friends with every neighbor who has a Facebook account, which is roughly a third of the households on my street.
posted by eamondaly at 2:13 PM on July 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


You can totally tweak this site to keep your privacy at the level you feel most comfortable.

For me that level is "hiding under the bed with the lights off clutching a bbq fork when someone rings the doorbell unexpectedly".
posted by elizardbits at 2:18 PM on July 11, 2012 [15 favorites]


Well, it's a lot easier to stop being friends with people who aren't your neighbors.
posted by pwnguin at 2:19 PM on July 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Our neighborhood has a hugely popular and active FB group - about half the adults in the neighborhood are members. It's interesting because it's led to a lot more friendships and social events/groups/activities, and other forms of becoming more socially intertwined. Like I now get my eggs from a neighbor every week, for example, and we chat and visit for a bit whenever I do that.
posted by cairdeas at 2:35 PM on July 11, 2012


Before we had kids, we lived in a townhouse, and only knew our directly connected neighbors, because we'd run into them on occasion. After living there 3 years, we said, "this is ridiculous" and threw a big party and invited everybody within eyesight of our front porch. It was a huge success and almost everybody was happy to have finally met each other (many were in the same situation as us). We did have a resident "Mr. Wilson" who seemed to have hated everybody, but fuck that guy.

Now that we have kids and moved into a typical cul-de-sac suburban 'hood, we know almost everybody on the street from having our kids play together, and I'm often the "tool guy" that people come to for that oddball wrench or floor jack. Also, being a "bus stop mom" in the morning is a great source of neighborhood info.

I tried to create a Nextdoor account, but it appears that our neighborhood doesn't have enough houses/address to meet their criteria. I doubt a lot of our neighbors would have logged into it anyway.
posted by Mr. Big Business at 2:38 PM on July 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Im currently living in a third world town with shitty transportation, expensive phone service and spotty Internet. Everyone is friends with their neighbors, because they are the only people they know.
posted by empath at 2:41 PM on July 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


We have an informal email list for housekeeping on the short private block our driveway exits onto (10-15 households) but we're extremely close with at least 3 of our nearest neighbors, at the level of shared trips and vacations, each having each other's keys, and frequent, unplanned communal cook-outs, kid play dates, cocktails, etc.

I knew this was fairly rare - I'm kind of surprised to see how many would consider it undesirable.
posted by jalexei at 2:48 PM on July 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't really want to be friends with the idiots who (frequently) live above me. Especially people who kept me awake due to the world's lousiest bed, and I still have a quiet grudge against the apartment-flooders still there now. I rather prefer not knowing them well under those circumstances.

I am friendly with the occasional neighbor, usually ones I know from elsewhere in town like a mutual activity. Or the folks with the cute dog that hangs around outside. But that's about it because you really don't see too many people just hanging around outside to chat with either.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:50 PM on July 11, 2012


I can't help but think this not-friendly-with-your-neighbors thing is directly, maybe even proportionately, related to how little we let kids run unsupervised around neighborhoods any more.

In MY day, we ran in packs like feral wolves - and we knew most of the people whose yards/driveways/etc we were crossing in the process.
posted by gottabefunky at 3:04 PM on July 11, 2012 [8 favorites]


I am on polite-nodding terms with my neighbours. Up until yesterday morning that was all I wanted. Then I learned they have a brand new puppy and I think I am going to up the whole polite-nodding relationship thing towards enthusiastic greetings and "oh, you need a puppy-sitter? Well, I'm .. okay, I'll do it" status. They won't suspect a thing if I plot this well.
posted by kariebookish at 3:17 PM on July 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


I got to know my neighbor because I was using his wireless. His shared directories showed up on my network. I left him a note about this in one of them and he stopped using it.
posted by Obscure Reference at 3:20 PM on July 11, 2012


I deeply resent the current confusion between the ideas of being polite and being someone's friend. I can wave or smile and nod to you, or ask you how things are going, or even check in on you when I haven't seen you in a month. None of these things mean you are my friend. I am merely being polite and fulfilling the role of neighbor (or coworker.)

I'm kind of on the opposite side of this — I resent the expectation that, just because I'm someone's neighbour or coworker, I should have to ask them how things are going, check in on them, etc. I'm happy to do those things with my friends, but for neighbours and coworkers? I don't care how their things are going, I don't believe they care about mine, and I'm not going to pretend to care even if they do. That kind of empty pointless socializing is just the worst.

So, I guess what I'm saying is, it's a good thing we're not neighbours. I bet we'd both be pretty aggravated by the other.
posted by stebulus at 3:22 PM on July 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


> I can't imagine that kind of social relation going well here in the US when you have the Muslim family living next to the Tea Partyers living next to the bondage enthusiast living next to the Evangelical pastor living next to the cat lady. So lately I'm beginning to think that the only way we can maintain multiculturalist ideals is through these kinds of distanced, impersonal relationships to our neighbors.

I remember reading some years ago that research into chimpanzee (or maybe orangutan) societies found that, when packed into high-density areas, they tended to treat one another more impersonally and avoid getting involved in each other's business (perhaps to reduce the chances of fights breaking out). I would wager that, as human societies become not only more multicultural but denser and more urban, we're going to rely more on polite but distant forms of interaction.

Except online. Then we can get up in each other's faces to our heart's content.
posted by Cash4Lead at 3:41 PM on July 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Unless your neighbors are crazy enough that you can tell via dive by, your neighbors are 20 to 30 people chosen more or less at random. This means you're pretty likely to get at least one person who is two standard deviations from the mean on any "not insane" axis you'd care to draw.

That's no guarantee you won't get someone more insane.

Of course people don't want to get too friendly with their neighbors.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:53 PM on July 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


I never became friendly with any of my previous apartment neighbors, mostly because my terrible then-roommate was a crazy, narcissistic asshole with no indoor voice, so I would've had to spend all of my neighbor-time apologizing futilely on her behalf. It was easier just to spend as little time as possible in the apartment and to cooperate enthusiastically with management noise complaints and police visits.

But I did enjoy hopping through the names of various unsecured wireless networks beamed from all corners of the apartment complex. My favorites were I_LIKE_SHRIMP, LoveAnal, and GarbageBagFullOfCobras.

Good fences and good internet security make good neighbors. Also good soundproofing.
posted by nicebookrack at 3:57 PM on July 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I used to get a lot of value from city-related LJ communities. I think I prefer that level of locality to neighbourhood-specific... but of course, LJ is kindof over these days.

I'm moving to a new city soon, and looking into neighbourhood or city-specific social networking is something I'll definitely do. It's just so useful to have good local resources.
posted by snorkmaiden at 4:00 PM on July 11, 2012


My neighborhood has a yahoo email group. That seems perfectly sufficient for the "my car got broken into last night," "who wants to help clean up the creek this weekend?" "Lost dog," kind of information that I would care about. It also provides insight into why I don't want to know my neighbors better, e.g. when someone posts "I don't wanna be racist but there is a black teenager walking down the street" and the universal response is "Call 911! If they're not doing anything wrong, what's the harm?" To be honest, I mostly subscribe to the group so I'll be aware if they all start complaining about me.
posted by boo at 4:08 PM on July 11, 2012


I live in a lovely small historic apartment building in a neighborhood that's gentrified since I moved here. I get along well with many of my building neighbors, know most of their names and are friends with some. The closest to a conversation I've had with any of the neighbor folk from outside the building was the time a retired cop who moved to the neighborhood pulled up, introduced himself and told us (with a feral gleam in his eyes) that he was looking for the local drug dealers, and wanted them to know he wasn't gonna tolerate that in his neighborhood. W. T. F? If this is what gentrification brings, I'm happy to stick with my own folk.
posted by evilDoug at 5:02 PM on July 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm really glad I'm friends with some of my neighbors, and am glad the psycho woman next door is about to move out. The woman before her is still a good friend of the wife's, & we wish she hadn't moved. Lord, send us a decent neighbor on that side, please.

Also lord, could you deliver me from the endless quoters of quoters of endless signatures of quoters of quotes that inhabit my neighborhood email digest.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:23 PM on July 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


In the past 20 years I've lived in a bedroom community where I had zero relationships with my neighbors, a rural/vacation community where the year-round residents were friendly with each other and the seasonal butthead next door got into an argument with me over what his/my address was, and now in a suburban community where we are good friends (get together most weekends) with our immediate neighbors, how-y'all-doing with some of the others, and get-together-once-a-year-at-the-party with the rest. I *much* prefer our current situation.
posted by Runes at 8:00 PM on July 11, 2012


I found it really odd that the story left out EveryBlock (created by MetaFilter's own Adrian Holovaty, which provides a similar service in a 16 cities, but with a certain amount of moderation thrown in. It can get very neighbor-tattly.
posted by me3dia at 8:04 PM on July 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Er, a link to EveryBlock's front page might help, eh?
posted by me3dia at 8:05 PM on July 11, 2012



I live in a rural area within a little cluster of houses. Some of the ones across the road are weekend cottages. I know a few people enough to wave. Even after 5 years I still don't know who exactly comes to stay in the weekend ones. I know at least one neighbor doesn't like us just because of our property. They're the manicure hedge hire gardner types where I live on a small piece of property that's still zoned 'farm' and do small farm stuff. I expect they were the ones that complained about my dogs barking to bylaw. The officer was cool though when I talked about them barking at predators (mostly coyotes) as well as other dogs they could hear. He made a comment about 'city' people that don't get our lifestyle. lol

A couple of winters ago, my driveway kept getting snowblowed out. It was like magic. I'd wake up and it was done. It actually took me a while to catch the guy doing it. When I went out to thank him he wasn't unfriendly but didn't seem like he really wanted to talk. I now wave when I see him and he still will blow out my driveway and a couple of other neighbors. It's a really weird relationship. lol
posted by Jalliah at 8:11 PM on July 11, 2012


Neighbors? I try not to talk to my roommates.
posted by Auguris at 11:18 PM on July 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


We live in a patch of Army married quarters, so the friendly neighbour thing can go both ways. You are all expected to be friends because you work for the same organisation, which I find a bit weird. Also, if things go wrong amongst friends-neighbours, it can get very claustrophobic very quickly. After about nine months we have found our 'inner-core' of neighbours that we socialise with and would call friends, and are on nodding and waving terms with the rest.

The upside is that we all kind of understand the stresses and challenges this lifestyle gives us - spouses going away regularly for long periods of time, having to move every two years or so, crazy society perceptions of what the military life entails. It also means there is an automatic level of trust built in, because at the very least we know where everyone works. If at midnight I had to rush to the hospital and my husband was away, I feel safe knocking on the door of any house in our block and asking if they could mind my kid. And if anyone knocked on my door at midnight and asked me to take their kid, I would without asking.

Best of all, we live in a quiet close, surrounded by fields and woodland. For the first time in his life my eight year old son is free to roam and ride bikes with the other neighbourhood kids, as long as he is back by the time I specify. As someone pointed out above, some of this is the knowledge that there is a tacit agreement that everyone keeps an eye out for everyone else, including kids.
posted by Megami at 12:37 AM on July 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


So what are the chances that the people living on either side of my dwelling, or even on my entire street, are people I can connect with on anything more than a cordial level?

Anecdata: My 1st husband was my next door neighbour. His 2nd wife was the sister of his next door neighbour. My 2nd husband was the brother of my next door neighbour.
I'll talk to my neighbours if I ever need a new husband, otherwise we just wave.
posted by jacanj at 1:54 AM on July 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


Hay jacanj, my wife was my next door neighbor! But as a single guy I was much more likely to introduce myself to the two college girls who moved in next door than the retired couple on the other side.

Although I got to know them well enough too as my roommate's dogs were escape artists (he'd let them out of the house and they'd get out of the yard and he'd go off to class) and Mrs. Neighbor would feed them dog biscuits and let them play in her backyard until one of us got home. Nice lady!
posted by ElGuapo at 5:22 AM on July 12, 2012


Well mine was my across the hall neighbor. We are very happy. But if I hadn't liked him, this might have been bad, for both of us.
As it happens, he's a really good guy.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:55 AM on July 12, 2012


All my neighbors are Mormons, which means they all know each other from church. They were friendly to us the first week we moved in but when Sunday rolled around and we didn't show up at their church that was the last we heard from them. That was 12 years ago.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:01 AM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Neighbors are not intended to be friends. Co-conspirators, maybe. But not "friends".
posted by Goofyy at 10:12 AM on July 12, 2012


But I did enjoy hopping through the names of various unsecured wireless networks beamed from all corners of the apartment complex. My favorites were I_LIKE_SHRIMP, LoveAnal, and GarbageBagFullOfCobras.

See, there's a wireless network I can see called "GO FUCK YOURSELF," so I'm a little hesitant to get too friendly around the building. But then, I live in DC, so Mr. Cheney might maintain his city residence next door and I just don't know it.

(i did check, and some apartment down the hall from me is not eligible for nextdoor- why did they need a specific apartment number?)
posted by zap rowsdower at 1:07 PM on July 12, 2012


Quite involved in my neighborhood due to crime problems, but yeah, not many of them are people I would independently be friends with. I can see this working out famously if two families from the same demographic end up next to each other on a cul-de-sac sort of thing, lifelong BBQ buddies and all that, but in a more random area like mine we have drug dealers and other sorts that just aren't going to fit in together.

Still, I think there is a redefinition of the word friend here. I'm not sure that the canonical ancient village example above uses the word the same way we do today. Then, you had friends you were stuck with by geography; now many people seek out friends by association, e.g. some crazy groups even meet up with complete strangers using small blue signs at bars.

I have worked hard to increase the depth of my personal network here in my one-time hometown, with not a single former schoolmate among them -- but it's mainly common interests, such as politics or cycling or historic preservation that govern these relationships. Only after working with a particular political campaign for three months do I feel some of these are graduating to the level of "personal friend" in the way I understand it.

But my neighbors? Yeah, some of them, I'm friendly enough with. I see them frequently, I know we watch each others' property, and so on. But I don't have much reason to go hang out with the retired GM worker or the embattled single mom from Arkansas. So, "friends" friends, no.
posted by dhartung at 2:26 AM on July 13, 2012


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