Love thy neighbour…real, or virtual?

Last week I had to urgently print off 20 copies of a flyer for kinder mums.  Mr.1 was napping and I couldn’t get to the library (we don’t have a printer).  So I called my next door neighbour for help.  Thankfully she did have a printer and happily let me use hers, saving me a lot of time that day.

The previous week, we had those same neighbours over for dinner.  And this morning, we went over to their place for breakfast.  It helps of course that they’re around the same age as my husband and I, and also have a 9 month old boy who Mr.1 loves to play with.  Couldn’t resist sharing a couple of pics of them together:

That looks tasty…give it to me

So as we have a lot in common with this couple, it was easy for us to become quite close. 

My neighbours across the road have two boys also (older than mine – 6 and 9yrs) and while we aren’t that close, I can always ask her for sugar if I run out, or to collect our mail if we’re away, and vice versa.  She’s also given me some humorous advice about raising two boys, as we’re in the same boat..

The family on the corner across from us pretty much keep to themselves.  But even so, over the years we’ve cultivated an unspoken agreement to trade fruit and veg.  Sometimes we just leave a bag of fruit with a note at each other’s front door.  I have a lemon tree that’s full in winter, and she has a white peach tree that’s full in summer. 

Then there’s an old lady living on her own a few doors up from us.  She’s a little eccentric, but never fails to remember Mr.4’s birthday and pops a card for him in our letterbox each year.

I’ve come to appreciate these small exchanges with the people who live closest to us.  The rest of the street (we have a fairly large street), is relatively unknown to us though. 

Which brings me to my first point.

I’ve always found it fascinating how people can share the same street address, or live next door to each other, or live across the hall from one another (in an apartment building), yet hardly utter a word to their closest neighbours.  Sometimes, living in such close proximity to one another for most of their lives, and still not knowing a single thing about each other.  I really do find this astounding (I probably should have studied anthropology!)

Let me now introduce the concept of ‘virtual neighbours’.  Take Twitter.  I’ve only been on it for about a month, but within the short space of time I’ve been on Twitter, I have come across lots of lovely, talented, genuine people (and even met one in person too!). 

I also had no idea what Twitter was actually about before signing up.  Now, I am quite amazed how people (through the limitations of 140 characters) truly support and encourage one another, responding to one another’s tweets.  I think it’s great.  And it reminds me of the kind of “neighbourly gestures” I described above.  Retweets.  Follow Fridays.  Little thoughtful things you do for someone that can lift their spirits…creating a sense of (online) community and support. 

Personally, I like my ‘real’ neighbours, value them, and don’t think they can be replaced.  But, I am liking my ‘virtual neighbours’ more and more.  

Forget about your friends for a minute.  How about your neighbours (assuming you have nice ones)?  Is it more satisfying for you to tweet “good morning” to your followers…or wave and say “good morning” to your neighbour living across the road?  Is the sense of community stronger for you online, or in real life?  If you had to choose, which would it be?



6 responses to “Love thy neighbour…real, or virtual?

  1. What lovely neighbours you have! My parents have discovered that since moving down to the Mornington Peninsula they have developed close bonds with their neighbours and appear to know most of their surrounding neighbours.
    We lived in an apartment block of four apartments and I only had one close neighbour who has sadly moved out.
    I also wonder does it differ depending where someone lives?

  2. Thanks for your comment Jennifer! I guess location can play a part, eg. perhaps an inner-city apartment building where most people work full time – no one’s around much except at night.
    It always seems to be the way, that the ones you’re closest to end up moving!

  3. Well, having “met” you through twitter I think I can safely say that that community feels more real to me. Although we’re polite and do favours for our neighbours & vice versa the virtual community feels more real to me. Part of this is because we’re surrounded by single male neighbours (2 brothers and a middle-aged man, an elderly man and our neighbours across the road have party-animal teens. The lack of small children around us definitely plays a part as I have no one directly near me to rely on for the cup of sugar or parenting advice. I run into people at the end of our street where we have the beach and a playground regularly and I chat but again, that’s not so often as to run in to the same people. Online though, through blogs and twitter you get a better sense of who you like and could genuinely be friends with. I’ve seen some negativity around the blog world in particular but it’s easy to avoid it and quietly ignore or unsubscribe. My online buddies have been incredibly supportive and helpful in my times of, “holy moly, what’s this parenting caper all about?!!!”
    ps. I posted something similar today! 🙂

    • Hi Cat thanks for stopping by and leaving such an interesting comment. I guess it does depend on the type of neighbours you have. But I agree the insight you get via online forums and blogs can be much more valuable than my ”real” community counterpart.

  4. Wow – great post, hon! And what a fab neighbourhood you have there.

    I have some rather interesting neighbours around near me. One is called the Jogging Lady. If you want to read about her, here’s what I wrote on that!

    She is quite the trip. 😉

    And I agree about Twitter. I love that I can tweet that I’m feeling flat, and immediately I’ll have people asking if I’m ok – including you! xx

    • Thanks for your comment Jodie! I agree I like the immediacy of Twitter, perhaps because a lot of us aren’t all that close to our neighbours and don’t have particularly close-knit communities (or families), Twitter fills that gap somewhat too.

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