Using the neighborhood email list for good and not ill

If many neighbors can’t get along (examples 1, 2, and 3), how do people go about making the neighborhood email list helpful?

Crime reports are a major part of why residents get in on the email list action. Like being part of a Neighborhood Watch, they feel safer knowing what’s happening outside their doors. But there’s a limit. Nashville resident Leah Newman says a woman on her neighborhood group is notorious for listening to a police scanner 24-7 and, like a court stenographer, jotting down everything she hears and relaying it. What she considers being vigilant, the rest of the community might view as overzealous…

But that frenzy—and the 400 messages batted back and forth—probably didn’t help matters. Instead, the better course of action is to exercise restraint and not get carried away posting incidents in real-time or suggesting that neighbors take matters into their own hands.

What might be the benefits?

For starters, many people simply won’t show up to an in-person meeting. Or, those who do might not feel comfortable mentioning personal gripes the way they could digitally…

Signing up for the neighborhood dispatch can also help recent transplants feel more rooted in their new community…

Elizabeth McIntyre, who runs D.C.’s Columbia Heights Yahoo group and website, also cites the powerful way these digital means can mobilize residents who are unhappy with something happening in their area…

Electronic mailing is also a great equalizer. No matter a resident’s age, education level, or technological savvy, most anyone can check and send email.

It is interesting that the article leads with the example of alleged criminal activity – what might better bind many American neighbors together than the idea that their collective quality of life (and attached property values) is threatened?

This could be a worthwhile subject for study in today’s world. There is evidence that American sociability has declined in recent decades and there are endless anecdotes of neighbors in fairly well-off to wealthy neighborhoods fighting over inconsequential things. As Baumgartner wrote in The Moral Order of a Suburb, suburbanites tend to get along by leaving each other alone and avoiding open conflict. Yet, the use of email could focus the attention of neighbors on common interests without having to get too involved with each other’s lives. At the same time, such conversations could easily get messy if there are feuding parties, differing opinions, or the typical aggressive behavior found in many online comment sections.

In the end, do such email lists enhance community life, not have much effect (since they probably aren’t very deep and focus on particular topics), or lead negative effects? Also, I would guess that the likelihood of a neighborhood email list goes up with social class.

One thought on “Using the neighborhood email list for good and not ill

  1. Pingback: Americans are good neighbors but have little interaction, knowledge | Legally Sociable

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