Neighbourly – the new online neighbourhood watch.

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A few weeks back I received a letter in my mailbox and much to my delight for once it wasn’t a bank statement or bill. The letter was from ‘Neighbourly’ – a bright green logo sat aside a slightly cheesy tag line that read ‘When neighbours connect good things happen’. What I found strange was that it was addressed to me as ‘My Neighbour’. I was intrigued and left wondering whether one of my neighbours had gone to great (and very detailed) lengths to invite us around for a potluck dinner or worse, laid a complaint!

Not quite knowing what to think, I pulled out the letter and proceeded to read. I had been invited to join a “free and private neighbourhood website for New Zealand”, which seemed like a sort of online neighbourhood watch. I could make use of the website in many ways such as meeting other neighbours in my area, recommending services or places to eat, organising local events, warning others of suspicious activity or helping locate a lost pet.

I read on, but couldn’t help but feel a bit sceptical about the whole thing. How is this different to other social media platforms that are engulfing our lives? Is this not just a glorified Facebook page where people can lurk and find out where I live? Is it safe? Am I overthinking this? It seems that Neighbourly has thought this through. As a private site, people can sign up to use it, but are vetted in order to be invited and can only join their own suburb’s page. There is also the ability to change profile settings to allow as much (or as little) detail to be shown on the site, as well as a private message function, should you wish to talk to your fellow neighbour privately.

The letter came with a code to log into the website (there is also a smartphone app). On first click, I’m faced with a hub of information – the homepage acts as a live stream (much like Facebook) where everyone can share, ask and answer anything. Local organisations can create their own page to publish news, up and coming events and answer questions. There is also the option of signing up to receive text messages warning of any suspicious or criminal activity happening in my area. I’m amazed at just how many people are using this, and the amount of positive feedback Neighbourly has acquired so far since launching nationwide in May.

The website is a nifty idea and something that could possibly catch on with more people joining. Although with social outlets like Neighbourly starting up, it makes me wonder whether this will increase community interaction by getting people talking behind a screen, or aid the decline of getting to know your neighbours and local community face-to-face. The days of chatting over the fence, going next door for a cuppa or rounding up the street for the weekly ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ meeting are rarities now.

I guess we’ll wait and see how the technologically savvy Neighbourly stands up to the traditional and conventional means of community spirit and interaction.

Author: Alana Chandler, Account Manager