THE BLOG

In A World Where We Can Connect Instantly Around The Globe, We're Losing Touch Of Those Immediately Around Us

03/08/2017 08:16
Matt Cardy via Getty Images

The average person in the UK spends around 40 minutes a day on Facebook. But when was the last time you spent that long talking to a neighbour on your street?

As our social media networks grow ever larger, so has loneliness here in the UK. Recent surveys have found as many as three quarters of older people feel lonely and seven out of ten youngsters feel the same way too.

In a world where we can be instantly connected with people living on the other side of the globe, we have lost touch with those immediately around us.

It's why Nextdoor, the social network for neighbourhoods, is teaming up with Neighbourhood Watch and social cohesion charity The Challenge to launch the Nextdoor Neighbour Pledge.

We want you to pledge to have a cuppa with a neighbour this August. It takes two minutes to sign-up and will take up an hour or two of your time. Not only could it make someone's day, it could improve your health too.

We have known for some time that being physically alone can lead to mental health issues. But a new study by Californian professor Steve Cole has found that people who feel isolated and lonely are at increased risk of "just about every major chronic illness - heart attacks, neurodegenerative diseases, cancer."

It's simple, being lonely is bad for both our mental and physical health. And it seems as a nation, we are becoming more lonely.

Why?

Nextdoor's research shows we are becoming increasingly isolated from our own communities. 60% of those we surveyed said they do not know their neighbours well or at all. Nearly two thirds never borrow things or exchange favours with their neighbours. 72% never get involved in local community events. And three quarters of people would not feel confident about letting a neighbour feed their pet while on holiday. That is a sad state of affairs.

While there are a number of factors behind this, the rapid growth of the internet and social media is a major one. We increasingly seek satisfaction in the number of Likes a Facebook or Instagram post gets rather than in an actual human interaction. And a daily diet of the highly edited and idealised version of our lives we put on social media creates unrealistic expectations and makes people increasingly dissatisfied with their own lot.

A very interesting study from Ethan Kross at the University of Michigan examined whether high social media use provokes loneliness, or if lonely people use social media more, focusing on the social network Facebook. His finding were remarkable. "We found that feeling bad doesn't lead to more Facebook usage. The more you use Facebook, the worse you feel. What seems to be particularly damaging is when people passively use the site, scrolling through their newsfeed, looking at other people's pages."

So is getting off social media the simple solution to solving loneliness? Not necessarily.

Our new report published today finds that social networking can in fact be utilised to rebuild communities and neighbourly bonds.

We found that when a social network is set up explicitly to connect people who don't know each other within the confines of a local area, and when you build the network around utility - neighbours helping each other out and getting things done together - you really can build stronger, safer, happier neighbourhoods.

And this is beneficial for everyone. Our research shows that those who experience a greater sense of local community and neighbourhood also report higher levels of satisfaction with life.

It's a win-win. Better neighbours make happier people and stronger communities.

So this August, please take just a little bit of time out of your month to sit down and have a cuppa with a neighbour. Let's get past that traditional British reserve and find out a bit more about those who live literally metres from us every day. You might find a friend and even someone yo

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