We are social animals and there’s no shortage of studies that show the importance of human interaction to our psyches. Social media is particularly appealing because we have control over the appearance in our online social interactions. Lots of people argue that this is good or bad, with some even saying that social media is addictive. I’ll leave that debate to the experts. One question that isn’t being asked is what effect does social media have on home security?
I’m a fan of social media because it helps me connect with people. This is especially important in my city, Seattle, with its infamous “freeze.” (Yes, there’s a Wikipedia Page on it). It’s that connection that could be a benefit to home security. First, social media provides us with lots of ways to communicate with lots of people efficiently. If you have a neighborhood group on one of the many social media sites, asking someone to watch your house while you’re away is as easy as posting a message to the group. In the past, this might’ve taken a series of phone calls or visits to neighbors. Even more than providing a platform for communication, social media builds community. It’s the old “if you build it, they will come.” Once the platform is there, communication and interaction becomes easier and more efficient, resulting in more interactions and more community. Communities that are active and engaged are much more difficult targets for burglary and theft than those that are fragmented. Close communities are more aware of what’s going on and more likely to do something if they see a problem.
This community pays off in a number of ways. We’ve written at length about some of the risk factors that increase the likelihood of having thieves and burglars target your home. The greatest risk factor is having a house that looks vacant or unwatched. Most thefts, especially package thefts, are crimes of opportunity, and an unwatched house is a huge opportunity. I’m as worried about the surveillance state as the next guy, but there’s a reason security cameras exist and are popular. Social media can play a big role shutting down the “vacant home” opportunity.
Besides just making it easier to ask people to watch your house, social media makes it easier for your neighbors to reach out to you if they see suspicious activity. Sending a message through one of the platforms is much easier than the energy and time needed for a phone call. These easier lines of communication also can help if a burglary or theft does occur. Reporting a stolen bike to the police might not get any results. They often don’t have the resources to investigate (thanks, economic downturn). A video on YouTube or a Tweet, on the other hand, might turn into a hundred people passively looking for your stolen bike.
It seems like there’s a big potential for social media to improve home security. If nothing else, it provides an opportunity for more engaged communities, and that can’t be bad. Beyond that, social media might give us a way to crowd-source home security.