Less than two years ago, I experienced the kind of scare that’s all-too familiar for many parents. My then-2-year-old daughter, Annie, was nowhere to be found after wandering out of our house. This is my story on how technology can bring neighbors together.
We live on a wooded two-acre lot, so the first 10 minutes were spent sprinting from yard to yard. But there was too much ground to cover, and we did not have any time to waste. We needed help. We needed numbers.
Community networks like Facebook and Nextdoor wouldn’t have done us much good either. Despite the urgent nature of my emergency, a post to Facebook or Nextdoor would’ve been lost in a flood of spam and political bickering. My neighbors were in the position to help, but there was no way to reach them.
I found my daughter at a neighbor’s pool gate (those darn inflatable floats attract kids like a magnet). It was locked, thank God. Little Annie was all smiles as she turned to see me running to her with open arms. She had no idea.
Two things occurred to me at that moment: I am never letting this girl out of my sight again, and the neighbor (property owner) was home. I could have alerted them and everyone on the block and found her in a fraction of the time!
What we learned about technology
The technology was there. People all over the world were connected in so many different ways, so why the hell wasn’t I connected to neighbors on my own street?
This led directly to the creation of Howl, the neighborhood safety app of which I am the founder and CEO. Howl is carefully curated so that users aren’t inundated with ads, petty disputes, and otherwise unhelpful information, ensuring that our users are only alerted to what’s local, relevant, and urgent within their community. Plus, we have an innovative voice alert feature that allows users to quickly and easily contact first responders in the event of an emergency, while also connecting with neighbors who can get to the scene much sooner.
The passion that drives it all
I care deeply about neighborhood safety, because despite the ubiquity of social media and internet culture connecting us to folks all around the world, it seems that in some ways, we’ve become less connected than ever with those in our own neighborhoods. That’s a shame, because as great as technology can be for communication, we’re underappreciating the value of forming relationships with the people right outside our window.
I don’t just mean that in the sense that we’re missing out on potential friendships. If you’re friends with your neighbors that’s wonderful, but not everyone needs to have that kind of relationship. I’m talking about something that’s arguably more essential: community safety.
Good neighbors aren’t just there to invite you to block parties or make small talk in passing. Good neighbors look out for each other. Good neighbors aren’t nosy but give each other a heads up if they notice something potentially dangerous.
The tech world has made fantastic strides connecting us with friends and strangers halfway around the world, but have we been neglecting the folks outside our own doors? Now that it’s easier than ever to connect with people we’d never have the pleasure of meeting otherwise, we’re faced with a unique opportunity to reconnect with the people right next door. It’s important to note how technology can bring neighbors together.
I have since connected with my neighbor to thank them for locking their pool gate. We look forward to connecting you to what’s important. I hope you will join me in building safer, friendlier neighborhoods.