In 2010, the Pew Research Center issued a very un-neighborly finding: 28 percent of Americans know none of their neighbors’ names. In 2016, the share of Americans who say they “never” socialize with their neighbors hit an all-time high of 34 percent, according to the General Social Survey.
Experts have posited multiple reasons why Americans are connecting less with their neighbors, such as fewer stay-at-home parents, more families camped indoors, streaming, gaming and engaging in their online social networks, and declining participation in their local community organizations and service clubs.
Despite this growing trend of Americans not interacting with their neighbors — especially if a recent tiff, such as a noisy pet, disputed property line or unsightly trash can has driven a wedge between them — this lack of neighborly outreach could actually be restricting their quality of life.
So, in the spirit of mending a few broken fences, we offer 10 reasons why we believe connecting or reconnecting with your neighbors can actually be good for you:
They can make your home and community safer
If you are expecting an important package when you’re not home, your neighbors can accept it for you, rather than having it left on your doorstep for a porch pirate to snatch.
They can help you lead a “greener,” more environmentally friendly lifestyle
Instead of firing up your carbon-belching, internal combustion engine every time you need to run to the store for an egg or a cup of sugar to finish your favorite recipe, your neighbor can step in and supply the missing ingredient.
They can keep you healthy
Why risk a hernia or throwing out your back when trying to move an oversized couch or La-Z Boy recliner yourself. Ask your neighbor to share the load and promise to return the favor.
They can help you enjoy vacations more
You could ship your pets off to a pet hotel when you go on vacation, but it might be far less expensive to ask your neighbor or, preferably, your neighbor’s kid to care for them while you’re away. If you make it worth their while, you might prevail on them to also pick up your mail and water your indoor plants. And if you’re on the road when you suddenly suspect you may have left the oven on or a door unlocked, you can simply call your neighbor to take care of it.
They can help keep your house in good repair
Especially if you live in a tract home, where the models are pretty much the same, they may already have dealt with a problem you’re only now encountering. If you have a busted pipe or broken water heater, for instance, they may be able to tell you where the shut-off to the water valves are. They may be full of other helpful tips, shortcuts and referrals as well, saving you additional time and money. And if you’re a do-it-yourselfer, they might be able to lend you just the wrench you need or another key tool to complete the repair.
They can help you find a job
These days, there’s virtually no job that isn’t subject to the whims of the economy and the increasing trend toward globalization (offshoring jobs where labor costs are cheaper). While there are literally hundreds of job search websites to help you find employment, about 70 percent of all jobs are found through networking, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor and Yale University study. So, why not start that outreach closest to home. Neighbors have friends and family of their own and can be instrumental in helping you promote your business or find the contacts and connections to help you land your next job.
They can help you bring positive change to the community
Maybe you would like to beautify the nearby ballpark or enhance the entrance to your particular neighborhood. It often takes a coalition or a village to impress vote-counting council members that your enterprise is worth supporting. Start building support by reaching out to your neighbors, who are likely to benefit from your initiative.
They can help disputes from turning ugly
If the fence dividing your property from your neighbor’s blows down, who’s going to pay for it? If you know your neighbors, and like them too, chances are you can calmly and equitably work out the dispute. Similarly, if you host a party that gets a little out of hand, they might a little more understanding before calling the authorities to shut it down.
They can help you get where you need to go
If your car fails to start because of a dead battery, they might be able to give you a jump to get you back on the road, or barring that, a chauffeured lift to your desired destination.
They can encourage your altruism
Say, you have a garden full of tomatoes or a tree teeming with lemons or avocadoes that will go to waste unless you find a home for them. By sharing some of your bounty with your neighbors, you can generate goodwill that can redound to you in all kinds of positive ways.
Tuning out your neighbors may be an understandable reflex for a variety of reasons, but cutting off this connection may also mean you’ll be missing out on lots of great benefits that only your neighbors can provide.
If you have had a falling out with one neighbor, don’t let that one unfortunate experience prevent you from reaching out again. As the ancient Greek poet Hesiod said, “A bad neighbor is a misfortune, as much as a good one is a great blessing.”