Most neighbors still social network the old fashioned way

(7/7/2010) Social networking doesn't do it for neighbors wanting to keep in touch with neighbors.

Internet tools are gaining ground, but face to face encounters and phone calls rule as the most common methods of interaction in the hood.

Pew Internet's recent "Neighbors Online" study found that many neighbors haven't made the transition to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace and other online social networking tools.

"For many Americans ignorance might have been bliss during the boom times but today people want to be actively engaged at both the local and national levels to stay informed about what's happening and how it affects them. Being left in the dark could prove to be downright dangerous, particularly when it comes to something that may be happening right in your own backyard," said Nancy Osborne, chief operating officer of, a Santa Clara, CA-based financial information publisher and interest rate tracker. In a recent poll, Pew telephoned 2,258 adults, age 18 and older and asked about online connections to communities and neighbors and found that in the twelve months preceding our survey:

• Twenty-two percent of all adults (28 percent of internet users) signed up to receive alerts about local issues (such as traffic, school events, weather warnings or crime alerts) via email or text messaging.

• Twenty percent of all adults (27 percent of internet users) used digital tools to talk to their neighbors and keep informed about community issues.

• Forty-six percent of Americans talked face-to-face with neighbors about community issues.

Pew reports, "Having face-to-face interactions with neighbors about community developments is tightly linked with factors such as age, socio-economic status and race. Latinos, 18-29 year olds, those without a high school diploma and those with a household income of less than $30,000 per year are among the groups that are least likely to speak to neighbors in person about community issues."

Parents (52 percent) are more likely than non-parents (43 percent) to meet with neighbors face-to-face to discuss community issues. Urban, suburban and rural adults are equally likely to have these face-to-face discussions.

Also, internet users are no less likely than non-users to discuss community issues with their neighbors -- 50 percent of internet users have done so, compared with 35% of non-users.

• Twenty-one percent discussed community issues over the telephone.

• Eleven percent read a blog dealing with community issues.

• Only 9 percent exchanged emails with neighbors about community issues and 5 percent said they belong to a community email listserv.

Pew reported, "Compared with telephone and in-person communication, racial differences are somewhat less pronounced when it comes to using email to communicate about neighborhood issues."

Among email users 15 percent of whites and 9 percent of both African-Americans and Hispanics shared email with neighbors about community issues in the preceding year.

• Four percent communicated with neighbors by text messaging on cell phones.

• Four percent joined a social network site group connected to communityissues.

Nearly one in ten social network users (8 percent) joined an online group focused on community issues in the preceding twelve months -- that works out to 5 percent of all internet users and 4 percent of all American adults. Social network users ages 18-29 and 30-49 are equally likely to join such groups, while those ages 50 and older are relatively unlikely to do so.

• Only 2 percent followed neighbors using Twitter.

Also 22 percent of adult Americans have signed up to receive alerts about community issues via text or email. This includes anyone who has signed up for alerts about one or more of the following issues: school events, weather warnings, crime in the neighborhood, traffic congestion or road closings.

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