When Miriam Diaz, 33 first moved to a new neighbourhood downtown Manhattan to start a new job, two things left her worried; First, who to pick her children from school and secondly where to keep her excess belongings.
She is a single mother struggling to take care of her two children and hiring an aide is a ‘luxury” she can’t afford at this particular stage of her life.
She shoved the idea of sharing her need on social media for help but when a colleague introduced her to a new social networking platform that enables neighbors and smaller communities to connect and help each other, she jumped on it.
Today, she has no difficulty working and handling her kids at the same time. All she has to do is get on the social networking app and ask who (Which neighbour) is available to pick her kids after school and she is sorted.
This is not the only help that these latest apps have to offer, from neighbors offering shared homes, free dance classes for kids and free rides, Mariam is not the only beneficiary of these platforms. There are a thousand of others using them to get help and also offering similar services to others.
Some of these Apps include Neigbourly by Google which allows individuals to borrow money from others. Another App,Neighbor which launched earlier helps people to share storage space with community members.
There comes Neighbours, another platform that helps locals to report suspicious activities to enforce law and order. Park Circa on the other hand enables users to efficiently coordinate individual schedules to utilise inadequate parking spaces.
The list goes on and on as a lot of these apps are springing up in recent times and this spate shows no sign of abating.
One would argue that these apps may not be necessary or may have little impact with the likes of Facebook and Twitter leading the pact, however one thing we can’t deny though is that although these Apps aren’t really “popular” and may not have traction, the aim is community building and it’s fulfilling just that.
Economic struggles, derailing living conditions, pressure to succeed and selfishness has succeeded in breaking the neighbourliness that existed among local communities some time past.
This, backed by the influx of social media coupled with its materialistic undertones and social pressures has gradually eroded our sense of neighbourliness subtly replacing it with materialism, pressure, cyber bullying, trolling and in extreme cases mental health issues.
Social media apps under its original tenets are supposed to connect friends and family. However, analysts have observed that the medium is rather disconnecting people, eliminating physical contact, causing isolation, mental problems among others.
These are the exact gaps that new digital platforms aim to remedy.
What is worth noting is that sometimes these apps morph from being just about community help into groups such as men’s and women’s group, reading clubs among others requiring physical weekly /monthly meetup.
Staying connected through these novel apps, encourages locals to lend a helping hand, unsettle daily struggles and form healthier relationships.
What a better way to use social media for social good and the benefit of all!