Do You Know Your Neighbors?

// Posted by on 01/31/2012 (10:52 PM)


While reading Fred Turner’s From Counterculture to Cyberculture and posts about hippie culture, I began wondering how it is possible to embrace your community and utilize a neighborhood without moving to a farm in the middle of nowhere and shutting off all of your electronics. Facebook and other social networking sites have helped connect people from all over the world to form an online community, but what if you just want get to know your new neighbor who walks past your house every day? For that, there is a new website called Yatown.

Yatown was co-founded in 2010 by Christopher Nguyen, a former engineering director at Google, and Jerome Park, creator and leader of the Enterprise Appliance Partner team at Google. The website allows users to post on virtual bulletin boards and share information about their community. Information is posted about local deals, events, and news. Users can also ask each other questions or start posts about general topics. The website brings neighbors together to form a closer-knit community without isolating them in a commune. Below is a screen shot of Yatown:


In Ali’s post, “The New Hippie,” there is a video about a commune in rural Virginia where people work to keep the community going. This simpler way of life in which 20 people live together in a single house is completely different from a suburban neighborhood. One man in the video spoke about his life outside of the commune saying, “I lived next door to somebody for four years and never knew who they were.” While some people would be happier in a commune, others would just like to know their neighbors. People with different political ideas, religious beliefs and ways of life can sign onto their computers and share information with each other, while still keeping their private lives to themselves.

Though many hippie communes are still functioning and thriving, websites such as Yatown are also on the rise. For people who want a closer and more exclusive community than Facebook, but want to live separate lives from their neighbors, an online community that connects people who are geographically close to each other is often the answer.

I signed on to Yatown to see if people in my hometown were using it. I found that not only were people posting in a general town group, they had divided into smaller groups based on what part of town people live in. It takes only 10 minutes to drive from one side of my town to the other so to see it divided into such specific neighborhoods was truly amazing. Yard sales were advertised, questions were posted about good places to hold fundraising banquets, and there was a feeling of a close-knit community.

Are websites such as Yatown the new way to network? Would you feel comfortable meeting your neighbors online before you met them in person? Can you really achieve a sense of community through a website?

A neighborhood is defined as a district, especially one forming a community within a town or city and the people of such a district. If we begin to find our neighbors online and establish a relationship before knocking on their door, are we still able to build a strong community like the hippies of the 1960s and 1970s wanted?

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Natalie said...

Online communities are interesting because in a way people can become closer in the cybernetic world than they can in real life. There is a sense of anonymity online that allows people to become more open, honest and genuine than they may be in real life. Physical interactions yield us to put up a guard that limits how close we get to people. For the previously mentioned reasons I find these communities to promote an enhanced personal connection. It is easier to find people that you relate to or that you can share with because you can throw the net much wider. The possibilities of sharing are even wider than in real life. Another part of me feels that you are missing out because if you cannot apply this style of communication in person than does it really mean anything at all? I think if we want to get the most out of these “online neighborhoods” than we need to find a way to translate this communication style into a personal, physical communication that occurs in person as well.

// 02/01/2012 at 8:02 pm