Some neighbors have found that online connections can help seal real-world bonds, and social media innovators are using apps and hashtags to help forge those connections.
At Greybarn in Amityville, the apartment complex's managers post every other day on dedicated Instagram and Facebook accounts at @GreybarnLI, says Mitchell Rechler, Greybarn developer and comanaging partner of Rechler Equity Partners. Posts promote events such as movie nights and cooking classes and include hashtags such as #greybarnlife and #dogsofgreybarn.
For neighbors that want to establish digital communities, a free app called Nextdoor is designed to create closed online social networks that are neighborhood-specific. The community-focused social network was founded in 2011 and is used by more than 220,000 neighborhoods around the world, including many on Long Island. It lets users register with their home address and connect with each other locally to post and talk about everything from for-sale items and block parties to the best local cleaning services, baby sitters, and dog walkers. It also helps neighbors and communities connect during emergency situations such as storms and other natural disasters to share information and resources.
If you live in a homeowner's association, there may already be an online community up and running. So ask the board before starting your own. Many HOAs establish their own groups using existing social networks such as Facebook, which expand community engagement beyond regular HOA meetings. Neighbors can use groups such as these to share newsletters, organize block parties and discuss community events and issues. Ask your HOA board if such a group already exists, and if not, ask about starting one. Be aware, though, that you may not be allowed to start such a group using your HOA name without approval. Visit hoaleader.com for tips on how to begin.
If your needs are more specific, consider one of the community-based apps designed to solve particular problems. For families and friends who need help caring for a sick relative or an elderly friend, there's a free app called Lotsa Helping Hands, which is currently used in several communities on Long Island. The app features a customizable "Help Calendar" that allows individuals and families to ask for temporary neighborly help, such as requests for meals, friendly visits or rides to the doctor. There's also a section for neighbors to post updates and encouraging notes so that struggling families will feel less alone.