You might have a thousand friends on your Facebook profile. You might even be chatting with quite a few, but how many of them have you talked face-to-face with? Facebook may have connected many a friend, but its role in strengthening neighbourhood bond may be limited as face-to-face communication is still the norm among neighbours, suggests new research.
People are not comfortable with neighbours seeing details of their private life on Facebook, the study found.
“We found there is a mismatch between what Facebook offers and how people think neighbours should communicate,” said Bonnie Johnson, one of the researchers and associate professor of urban planning at the University of Kansas in the US.
The researchers conducted a case study to see if social media could revive a struggling neighbourhood association.
The team studied a Lawrence neighbourhood with more than 500 homes that had a neighbourhood association since the early 1970s.
Over 10 years, the association’s active members had dropped from more than 100 to less than 10.
In hopes of rebuilding neighbourhood participation, the neighbourhood association launched Facebook and Twitter accounts and an email, which they advertised throughout the neighbourhood.
The results yielded five Facebook likes, three Twitter followers and two new email addresses.
To find out why there was little interest in joining a neighbourhood social network, the researchers sent out surveys to more than 500 homes. Of those surveys, 37% were returned.
Respondents indicated they were not comfortable with neighbours seeing details of their private life on Facebook.
They also questioned the need for social media when face-to-face communication is the norm among neighbours.
The research was published in the Journal of Urban Technology and the Journal of Planning, Practice and Research.