Health and wellbeing

Want to make friends next door? Don’t ask AI

On Neighbour Day, skip artificial intelligence and make a human connection.

neighbour day

"Hey AI, what should I say to get to know my neighbours?"

That’s what we asked a well-known artificial intelligence tool. Artificial intelligence has gone completely viral around the world over the past year, due to its remarkable ability to generate human-like text and perform language-related tasks. The tool promises to be conversational and is even able to engage in small talk.

For many of us, introducing ourselves to the stranger next door or striking up a conversation with a neighbour in the lift is far easier said than done. In the lead-up to this year’s Neighbour Day, we thought we’d put artificial intelligence to the test and see if it could help us with the sometimes-awkward task of getting to know our neighbours.

The theme for Neighbour Day on 26 March is ‘Create belonging’. It’s all about building communities across Australia one relationship at a time.

Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore, said neighbours are an integral part of city life, helping to foster community and belonging.

“At the City of Sydney, we support locals coming together in many ways: through community centres, our parks and green spaces, community gardens and swimming pools,” the Lord Mayor said.

“I'd encourage everyone to introduce themselves to their neighbours and help eliminate isolation and loneliness, particularly among our older residents.”

While it’s very common to feel awkward or anxious about getting to know your neighbours, meeting and getting to know your local community is much more than just a nice, friendly thing we should do. It’s the foundation on which strangers become real neighbours and how streets become communities. It’s well-known we all feel and do better as part of a community, yet, for all sorts of reasons, communities across the country are facing a loneliness crisis.

Let’s see if artificial intelligence can help. Here are 5 conversation openers one AI chatbot recommends we get to know our neighbours.

  • "Excuse me, do you have a map? I seem to have lost my way to the land of cool neighbours. Can you point me in the right direction?"
  • "Is it just me, or do we have some serious electricity between our apartments?"
  • "I was going to knock on your door and introduce myself, but I figured I'd be a lot smoother if I just said hi through the wall."
  • "Are you a magician? Because every time I see you, my day instantly gets better."
  • "I was going to knock on your door and introduce myself, but I thought it might be more fun to be cheesy and say hi over the balcony. Hi neighbour!"

Cue the tumbleweed. It seems AI might have a little more work to do on its human touch. We're pretty sure these lines might result in avoided eye contact for many years to come.

Strong communities are all about human connection

One third of Australians don’t see or hear from their neighbours on a monthly basis. Nearly half feel they can’t call on neighbours for help. When you consider the negative health effects of loneliness and isolation, it’s easy to see how simple acts of neighbourly connection could make such a difference.

Building up support at a neighbour-to-neighbour level is one of the best ways we can create resilience in communities. With an increased risk of major crises like heat waves, storms, bushfires or flooding, having strong communities is essential to helping us respond, recover and rebuild.

If you’d like to become more neighbourly, here are some ideas to help you get started (written by actual humans).

Neighbour Day is Australia’s yearly celebration of community, encouraging people to connect with those who live in their neighbourhood. Find out more about Neighbour Day.

Published 21 March 2023, updated 22 March 2023