I’ve lived in quite a few different places over the years (Switzerland, NY, Arizona, multiple locations in Germany, etc.) and everywhere I’ve been, I’ve had some pretty interesting neighbors.  In some places, it was really easy to meet people (almost too easy sometimes).  In other places, it was a bit harder.

In today’s increasingly transient world, people don’t stay in 1 place for a very long time and neighborly relationships are getting harder & harder to forge.

A few years ago, Robert Putnam warned in Bowling Alone that our stock of social capital – the very fabric of our connections with each other, has plummeted, impoverishing our lives and communities.   Here are some depressing/interesting factoids from the book:

  • Every ten minutes of commuting reduces all forms of social capital by 10%
  • Joining and participating in one group cuts in half your odds of dying next year
  • Watching commercial entertainment TV is the only leisure activity where doing more of it is associated with lower social capital.

Encouragingly, a new generation of peer to peer online businesses are helping connect “people to neighbors” and reverse the “Bowling Alone” trend.  The NYT recently reported on a couple of interesting new web start-ups that allow people to share/rent their stuff.  NeighborGoods, Snapgoods & sharesomesugar are clawing out niches in the “rent online” world or “access economy.”  Both sites have a very social bent and promote saving $$, resources & rebuilding local community (all good ideas in the current zombieconomy).  Oh, and ladies, please check out this one bagborroworsteal (renting high-end handbags).

I can definitely see these sites working well in college towns and cities.  It will be interesting to see if the e-borrowing concept catches traction beyond the urban areas.  Will Ebay decides to step in and offer a “rent” instead of “buy/sell” section of their site as well?

Having a great reputation helps to sell online & offline.  It always has.  Just being a good neighbor & being a little more social offline can help turn around the very depressing “bowling alone” social capital funk we’ve been in over the past few decades.

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