Online Social Networks and the Neighborhood Renaissance

A new online social network wants to bring neighborhoods together in ways that may agree with how people want to know their neighbors, i.e. semi-anonymously and at their convenience. 

What's the Latest Development?

A new social network wants you to get to know your neighbors, with hopes of strengthening communities across the country. The site is called Nextdoor and it offers house-by-house maps to which individuals and families can attach their names (or not) as well as "a forum for posting items of general interest; classified listings for buying, selling or giving away things; and a database for neighbor-recommended local services." The service is currently free and carries no advertising, though the company wants to generate support for local businesses by allowing them to post special deals for neighborhood residents. 

What's the Big Idea?

An awkward encounter with a neighbor is nothing new. But the strange feeling of a silent elevator ride or quick hallway run-in is not bad. In fact, the urban sociologist Louis Wirth once said that having 'anonymous' and 'superficial' relationships was essential to city living. Might neighborhood-based social networks be the perfect medium to build community cohesion without obligating strangers to get to know each other on intimate levels? Although we may have forgotten, Facebook's original purpose was to serve a community defined by real-life proximity--the neighborhood, if you will, inside Harvard University.

Photo credit:

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why the ocean you know and love won’t exist in 50 years

Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?

  • Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
  • The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
  • If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
Keep reading Show less

Vikings unwittingly made their swords stronger by trying to imbue them with spirits

They didn't know it, but the rituals of Iron Age Scandinavians turned their iron into steel.

Culture & Religion
  • Iron Age Scandinavians only had access to poor quality iron, which put them at a tactical disadvantage against their neighbors.
  • To strengthen their swords, smiths used the bones of their dead ancestors and animals, hoping to transfer the spirit into their blades.
  • They couldn't have known that in so doing, they actually were forging a rudimentary form of steel.
Keep reading Show less

Health care: Information tech must catch up to medical marvels

Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's CEO, believes we're entering the age of smart medicine.

Photo: Tom Werner / Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The United States health care system has much room for improvement, and big tech may be laying the foundation for those improvements.
  • Technological progress in medicine is coming from two fronts: medical technology and information technology.
  • As information technology develops, patients will become active participants in their health care, and value-based care may become a reality.
Keep reading Show less