Freeconomy again: the social network that limits your time online
comment 2 Written by on November 21, 2009 – 5:09 am

Continuing on from my blog about the Cashless Man, Mark Boyle, here’s a snippet of info I found on his blog about the social network he’s created called the Freeconomy Community and how he’d hate for it to become the new Facebook.

Whereas Facebook’s objective is to keep people on-line, reading their adverts, for as long as possible each day, the raison d’etre of the Freeconomy Community is to get people meeting up with like minded neighbours in their own ‘real’ local community. It is an on-line tool for what is essentially an off-line idea. That’s why we limit the number of messages you can send to any single member to three each month, encouraging people instead to arrange to meet up in their local area before that limit is exhausted. That’s also why you can only see the people within a maximum of a 10 mile radius. It is also why we have refused to build an on-line chat room, our rationale being that if you want to chat, go and do some gardening together, or something equally constructive.

Interesting. I see where he’s coming from. I’ve said before how I’m a big fan of social networking as long as it transfers into the real world and you don’t end up having a social life that revolves around a screen.

But is imposing rules a little extreme? 

Freeconomy seems to have its own way of ‘going local’ – encouraging people to communicate with people in their own area. Perhaps Mark thinks we should reign in our globalised way of living?

Lea Woodward, an inspirational traveller who set up the great website Location Independent, recently tweeted about her ‘virtual neighbours’. I asked her what she meant by this and she described them as "friends we meet online who are like neighbours – say ‘hi’ most days & notice when you’re not around".

Is this sad – as in we should speak more to our local neighbours – or great – meaning the internet allows us to live in such a border-free world?

I think it’s up for us all to set our own rules with social networking and decide what works best for us.

I admire what Mark Boyle is doing, but I wouldn’t go down the "locals only" route. I love the fact that social networking means I can keep in touch with people all across the world.

Should Freeconomy people be freer to discuss their ideas with people living similar lifestyles across the world? Swapping tips and experiences and spreading the word? Perhaps not via money-hungry Facebook, but by a different platform?

At the same time, it’s great to see someone taking a stand, playing with the concept of a social networking and offering something different, rather than churning out A.N Other chatroom.

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2 Responses to “Freeconomy again: the social network that limits your time online”

  1. Hey Vicky – good question!

    I think in some respects it is very sad that local communities have been eroded over the decades and that few people (certainly in cities) know their neighbours these days.

    On the other hand, as you’ve said, social networking sites can also open up the world to people who may live in remote areas, who live in places where they feel isolated socially or people who, like us, don’t always have a “home” and therefore have no neighbours. It depends on an individual’s situation.

    I have made some brilliant friends on social networking sites like Twitter – again though, I’ve solidified these relationships offline by meeting people in person and I think it’s the combination of virtual- and real-world communication which is key.

    Freeconomy sounds interesting – checking it out now – I can see what they’re trying to do and why, but it is a sign of the times that a tool like this is deemed necessary to help locals meet each other. Again, I guess it’s because the places that people used to meet in a community (church, local shop, post office etc.) are often no longer the hubs of the community, if they’ve even survived at all.

  2. Very interesting post Vicky. It reminds me of the book Bowling Alone, which shows that by almost every measure social interactions are declining. What’s not declining is time watching tv and long commutes. The book came out in 2001, so maybe things have changed a bit.

    I’ve gotten to know some great people through Twitter and blogs etc.–and even one person face-to-face. I don’t see it as replacing local communities though.

    I live in a pretty close-knit community, yet there are some people on my street I either hardly ever see or have never met before.

    I suspect this problem is worse in the U.S. than some other countries. For instance, I noticed that in Mexico there seemed to be more people who enjoyed hanging out in parks and plazas. I think in the U.S. many people spend most of their time inside.

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