Does social media change the ways we’re social?

My coworker, Ted, recently posted a link on Facebook.

It was a New York Times article about social interactions in real life and online. That Ted and I work in the same building but converse more electronically than face to face is probably relevant here somehow.

Charles Blow wrote in his op-ed for the Times:

A report issued Wednesday by the Pew Research Center found that only 43 percent of Americans know all or most of their neighbors by name. Twenty-nine percent know only some, and 28 percent know none. …

I am very much aware that social networks are rewiring our relationships and that our keyboard communities are affecting the attachments in our actual ones.

For instance, a Pew report issued in November 2009 and entitled “Social Isolation and New Technology” found that “users of social networking services are 26 percent less likely to use their neighbors as a source of companionship.”

Maybe some people don't get to know their neighbors because they don't want Gladys Kravitz nosing around in their business?

It stands to reason that when American housewives typically didn’t work outside the home, and families only had one car, neighbors would be a go-to source of socializing.

Anecdotally, it seems plenty of people still make friends because of proximity, but that might mean different things now — your college roommate, the guy at the next desk in your office, the other moms in your childbirth class. They’re people near you, but perhaps not sleeping in the house next door.

Still, even as I socialize with friends using Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, text and cell phone, I like that we know at least some of our neighbors. There’s something comforting about having someone down the hall who notices if a FedEx box has been leaning against our door for a day or two.

We knew all our neighbors by name when we were home owners. Then again, we were in that house six years, compared to just one in our current rental. Maybe if we had five more years here, we’d know the whole building, and friend them all on Facebook.

Do you know your neighbors? Why or why not? Do you welcome newcomers who move into your neighborhood?

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