Social networks, let's face it, are pretty anti-social. For as much as they were created to help us discover new friends, explore new heights and interact with people you would not have met in your own locality, we might just be losing touch with the people that truly mean the most to us. Our spouses, our flatmates, our neighbours.
London living can often make us secluded and rented apartments are the worse kind to encourage the potential recluse. I know not one person in my entire apartment block. It's easier to hide behind the macbook, sending emails and ordering the Ocado shopping in preference to walking down ones road. It's time to admit that our fingers are getting hard calluses from typing too many status updates because, in the words of Sir Cliff Richard, "it's so funny, how we don't talk anymore."
Enter Streetbank.com; possibly the only social network site that actually makes us sociable. Set up by Sam Stephens from west London - the site allows you to connect with people no more than 1,000 metres within your postcode. You have three options - you can lend something (think hedge trimmer, drills, or that vintage dress you never wear); you can give something away (baby equipment is popular for this category); or my favourite - you share a skill (language lessons, guitar lessons, flower arranging).
In short, the ethos is getting to know thy neighbour, by lending your pressure washer. I don't believe I've seen genius like this since Newton discovered gravity from a falling granny smith (or a braeburn?).
The strategy behind this non-profit organisation not only avoids wasting our landfill sites with those 'was once useful' tools, but Streetbank.com has become so much more than that. People actually have a conversation. They smile. They have cups of tea; like the good old days, when neighbours would chat over their fences and watch out for your cat.
A lost art form in the big cities.
The government is constantly trying to encourage people taking part in their community. Good neighbours are healthier and safer. They are more content where they live. They look out for each other and are known to be more resilient in the tough times. They trust their allies in their own cul-de-sac.
Sharing is increasing in popularity: for financial reasons, for global warming reasons and for social reasons. Street car, Boris bikes to name two.
Realistically though, the reason why this site is rising in hits, why people are joining, and why people keep coming back has nothing to do with borrowing the step ladder or sharing baking skills (although it's a beautiful cherry to the cake). It's encouraging interaction again. Promoting that sense of belonging, and taking your place (as is your duly right) in your own street.
Streetbank.com has become something that perhaps it was never trying to achieve, yet its' 10,000 members have found a nice place for it, somewhere between our need to contribute and our need for face to face contact.
I may not have huge amounts to give away in London and my Italian is a little arruginito, but I just know someone out there, someone within 1,000 metres is going to want to borrow my Happy Feet DVD. Finally I might know my neighbours' first name without me forcing my way onto their welcome mat.
With Streetbank.com creating a stunning mixture of modern technology with social physiology, I believe hope can be found again - whilst holding on to what made Britain's nation so good; that community, that togetherness and a good old fashioned brew.
So thank you Streetbank.com, you may just have made my flat, feel like home.
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