House rules for neighbourhood watch groups

Social media in the spotlight

07 July 2019 | Life Style

Whatever your feelings on the issue might be, the invention of the neighbourhood group has been beneficial in many ways. For starters, you can now subtly pose solutions to your neighbour’s unkempt garden by sharing the details of an affordable gardening service with your group (tag the culprit directly to remove the subtly of the suggestion).

“Neighbourhood groups can either be an incredibly useful source of information that foster a true sense of community, or an equally destructive source of trivial chit-chat that breeds hatred and division,” says Adrian Goslett of RE/MAX Southern Africa. “Whoever manages the group ought to set up and enforce a strict rules of engagement policy which all users need to read and agree to before joining the group.”

Beyond this, Goslett also recommends the following best practices of behaviour for all homeowners who participate in these suburb groups:

1) Never share personal details

“No matter how tightly managed entry to these groups may be, it is never wise to share your personal details in a group forum. It is better to share things like cell phone numbers, bank details, and any other personal details via a direct message than posting it in a comment for all to see. Similarly, rather than announcing your vacation plans to the group, approach just one trustworthy neighbour to keep an eye out on your home while you’re away.”

2) Avoid controversial topics

“Neighbourhood groups exist to share information that you think your neighbours might find useful and relevant. However, it can be tricky to decide what ‘useful’ and ‘relevant’ means to each of your neighbours. To avoid conflict, do not share content that might spark debate or conflict. Politics and religion therefore ought to be avoided, as well as conspiracy theories and other controversial topics.”

3) Double-check facts

“Before sharing anything on the group, be sure that it comes from a reliable source. Fake news is becoming more and more prominent on social media these days and the last thing you would want is to spread panic in your suburb based on incorrect facts.”

As a final piece of advice, Goslett suggests that homeowners interact with their neighbourhood group in a similar way to how they might interact with a community notice board at a public library or hall.

“If you apply the same kind of rules of engagement to neighbourhood groups as you do to physical notice boards, you lower the risks to your personal safety and decrease the possibility of causing conflict among your neighbours,” Goslett suggests.

If you are cautious to join a neighbourhood group, Goslett advises that you develop a relationship with a trustworthy local suburb expert who can share similar suburb-relevant information with you.

“Real estate professionals can often recommend good services and amenities in the area and can keep you informed with any new developments in your suburb. If you don’t have a real estate agent you can reach out to, visit our website and get in touch with your nearest RE/MAX office today,” Goslett concludes.