The difference between community and neighborhood

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Moving to a small area in Brooklyn in my mid-twenties was the first time I made the distinction between neighborhood and community. In common language and on the news, the words are often interchanged but they are not remotely similar.

A neighborhood is a collection of people geographically bound by some physical or official designation such as a street or border. Neighborhoods might be friendly but not productive. A neighborhood exists physically but the people do not necessarily have any connection with each other despite their close proximity.

A community does not require physical boundaries but its members, either actively or passively, work to produce something, like nurturing schools or a friendly environment. In community, acts of friendliness may be performed regularly to help neighbors and people may just stop on the street to chat to people whom they are not connected to via social media. People in communities care for one-another, something not necessarily present in a neighborhood.

When I lived in a certain part of Queens I never knew there could be anything different from a neighborhood. There were people everywhere but no one spoke to anyone caringly. I lived on the same street for decades and knew few people on the block. Very little was done collectively to improve the overall circumstance.

In this part of Brooklyn people say hello, gather at people’s homes, share things and have a willingness to give and help. Businesses are supported by locals out of pride and solidarity. Email groups bind residents together with the dissemination of information, stories of personal experience, and freecycling offers. Families are important and not just to the family members. Most staggeringly, people care, in general, as a way of life, about their blocks, streets, and neighbors.

Can communities be constructed? Surely seeds can be planted but to aggregate a caring people with similar ethics may simply be a matter of luck.

How does one find a community? Communities are now often bound by online information distribution through groups, forums, or fan pages. I would begin my search by seeking those out.

How do you know when you’re in a community? A friend of mine once said, “I love that kind of stuff, where people are friendly and it’s not all about ‘me, me, me’ but feels like part of a community.” If you feel like you’re part of a community, you’re probably in one.

What is the single most important factor in sustaining a community? The absence of anger.

5 thoughts on “The difference between community and neighborhood”

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  1. What do you have when some of the members of a group care about the group and the rest don’t? In that case is it just the “carers” who are a community while the “non-carers” are just… what?

    What word should be used instead of “the black (or, pick a race or ethnicity of your choice) community” in which large numbers of members terrorize and kill other members? Or “the Muslim community” in which large numbers of members terrorize and kill other members?

    And whatever then is “the global community”?

    1. Hi Terry,

      I don’t think there is a black community, Muslim community, or white community. Those are poorly chosen words used too often to identify an ethnic group within an area that might or might not have care for one another. Those terms assume too much.

      I don’t believe you can have community with hate. But also communities can seldom protect themselves from outsiders.

      I’m going to think on your words some more. Maybe I can come up with a better response or item for discussion. Or maybe you weren’t looking for a response at all but just wanted to share.

      1. I am/was looking for a response, so thank you for yours. Years ago I came across an interview with Suzanne Keller in which she defined “community” similarly to how you do. I posed my question here because I am sick of media (particularly broadcast media) constantly referring to “the xxx community” when it is patently obvious that they are referring NOT to a community but merely to a population. Or, rather, a subset of a population.

        As you pointed out, the “Ferguson community”, the “Orlando community”, etc. assume too much. By doing so, those usages posit a degree of caring while “news” footage shows clearly that that degree of caring simply does not exist. Perpetuating that false impression of “community” obscures the fact that LOTS of members of the population in question contribute to the problems rather than to any solutions.

  2. Thankyou for this information i was having a conversation about this with one of my friends…. thanks