About four years ago, I got a postcard in the mail inviting me to join something called Nextdoor. I had never heard of it, but apparently one of my neighbors sent an invitation to me. I thought it was an ingenious way to meet some new neighbors in my community, so I signed right up. I created my profile, downloaded the app, and started reading the feed. I was pleasantly surprised. A local wine shop was sharing a free wine tasting, one woman was working hard to get a local book club going, another a conversational Italian group. “This is a really excellent app,” I thought to myself. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
That was four years ago…
I can’t pinpoint when it happened, but Nextdoor has changed in those four years. It’s morphed from its original purpose to help build communities to shaming individuals and ripping them apart. Now, to be fair, there are some excellent posts. Just a couple weeks ago my friend’s dog escaped and was found by someone on Nextdoor. Another poster mentioned how his son’s bike was stolen, and someone posted that they saw a similar one thrown haphazardly into the wetlands. Though a bit worse for wear, the boy got his bike back. These posts serve as a reminder about the purpose of Nextdoor, and I’m encouraged every time I see them.
Sadly though, they are no longer the norm. Rather, Nextdoor has become a public whining and shaming site. It’s this century’s whipping post, where we can get together and cyber bully random strangers for driving too fast, post about a “suspicious male” sitting in a car or walking down the street, rage about someone running a stop sign, or even go as excessive as critique how bikers cross a crosswalk incorrectly. It’s bringing out the worst in us.
What purpose does this public shaming even serve? When you race behind someone speeding to snap a picture of their vehicle, the last place you need to send that picture is Nextdoor. If you need to report a reckless driver, call the non-emergency police line (775-334-2677). If it’s so severe people’s lives are in immediate danger (think violently impaired driver or a hit-and-run), call 911. These options are the responsible and helpful way to report a dangerous driver. Plus, this advice can be used for any situation that involves potential danger or risk. Suspicious individual? Call the numbers. Someone breaking the law? Call the numbers. Possible break-in? Obviously, assess the situation, and call the numbers.
Want to know what is NEVER helpful? Posting that picture to Nextdoor in some hope that the driver will either see it and be sufficiently shamed or that the public can contribute to an online bashing. Spreading this kind of negativity solves nothing and leads to inevitable (Pick your stereotype) “Damn these California drivers/Damn these teenagers/Nevada is going to crap” responses that so many just automatically parrot out today. We get enough of that anytime we turn on the news. We don’t need it on a community website.
So, my fellow Nextdoor users (and especially those in the South Reno area), don’t fall for this. Let’s keep Nextdoor, and any other community websites, exactly what they are meant to be: an online space to get to know our neighbors. From the silent majority, thank you.
PS I want to share a special story that I saw from Nextdoor. What started as a negative post turned into something beautiful. The original poster started a thread complaining about an untidy lawn in his neighbor. Posters responded, some agreeing, until a few mentioned that maybe there was a reason the neighbor had such a bad lawn. Fortunately, the original poster listened to the latter and went to see if everything was ok. The lawn owner was older and simply couldn’t afford to pay for someone to help clean up the lawn and was too feeble to do it herself. So, the original poster mobilized the community, and multiple people came to help clean up this woman’s lawn. If there is a better use for Nextdoor, I’ve yet to see it. Less complaining, more compassion. More joy.