Livin’ in the Sharehood

31 August 2012

The days of borrowing a cup of sugar from your neighbour when you realise you’ve fucked the grocery run when baking a cake seem to have been over for a while now. You don’t know your neighbours. Or you think, “Why on earth would they want to lend me their sugar?” Or you’re scared they’ll pretend not to be home when you know they really are home and there will just be this awkward air between you next time you’re both checking for mail.

It’s an often-bemoaned reality that living in the city is lonelier than ever. The ramifications stretch beyond the miserable nights and incomplete cakes. Less sharing means we buy more things and have a greater impact on the environment. Like the time I wanted to fix my bike and I bought three wrenches of different sizes, none of which worked, which proceeded to rust slowly on my balcony over the next year.

While busy lives, a need for privacy, and anxiety about strangers get blamed for the isolation, we share more and more online as we connect less with our real life neighbours. Unfortunately, you can’t turn to your Facebook friends for a cup of sugar.

The Sharehood, a new online resource, uses that contradiction to reconnect neighbours online, with a social network aimed at sharing with those in your neighbourhood.

Sharing what?

Everything, really… resources, skills, good times. The idea was born in 2008 when a Northcote resident realised there were loads of dormant washing machines all around him. Users have registered books, tools, lawn mowers, produce, computer skills and barbeques.

Users register where they live and what they’re willing to share at the website, They can then see the closest 100 people who are willing to share their things. For students, this is particularly enticing. While it’s impossible to know how many University of Melbourne students use the service—it’s not a questions asked when you sign up to the website. Cost-wise it makes sense that young renters would be more willing to share this way.

“We don’t make investments unless you’re permanently living somewhere…you’re not going to go out and buy a washing machine or even a ladder.” Ruthie Hambling, one of the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) Environmental Officers explains. The Environment Department has been working with The Sharehood to encourage University of Melbourne students to sign up and start sharing.

Scouring the homepage, I’m already excited to get sharing. On offer as ‘shareables’ are knitting needles, embroidery lessons, lots of books, cars and herbs. Someone is seeking igloo repair. Help moving. Spanish conversation.

“Hola neighbour! Can I please borrow some sugar? Gracias.”

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