Why we know less about our neighbours than ever

Angus Kidman 26 July 2016

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17% of Australians don't even know the name of their nearest neighbours.

OMG Kylie lied to us. It turns out that everybody may not need good neighbours after all.

A recent finder.com.au survey of 1,010 Australians asked how well people actually knew their neighbours. It turns out that 17% of us don't even know the names of their immediate neighbours. 32% only know them by name. A similar proportion (31%) say they are "acquaintances", while just one in five (20%) claim to be "friends".

There was some variation in the figures between states, as you can see in the chart below (hover over each state for the data).

The data shoots down one popular theory: that people in rural areas are much more likely to be friendly than city residents. The percentage of residents who claimed to be friends was 20% for urban areas and 22% in regional areas, which isn't a particularly notable difference.

ResponseRuralUrban
I don't know them12%19%
I know their names, but that's about it35%30%
We are acquaintances32%31%
We are friends22%20%

The bigger question is: is this a problem? It's easy to decry this apparent lack of neighbourliness, but the fact is we don't get much say in who ends up living next door, and they might be the kind of people we simply don't want to be friends with.

We also have extra options for sociability that didn't exist a generation ago. Social media means we can connect up with people who share our deepest interests, whether they live next door or in the next state. Just because those relationships are virtual doesn't mean they're not valuable.

Conversely, there are some obvious practical benefits to getting on well with your neighbours, from having someone to collect your mail if you're on holiday to being able to borrow the proverbial cup of sugar. But it would be naive to assume you'll get on with all your neighbours all the time, unless you're a much nicer person than I am.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears Monday through Friday on finder.com.au.

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