Is Nextdoor.com the new Facebook?

What is supposed to be a platform for neighbors is now a place for restless people to vent

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Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

Besides Instagram, I don’t normally venture into other platforms very much. In fact, I wasn’t aware that Nextdoor.com even exists until last year, when a former colleague and friend of mine told me about it. “It’s very helpful,” she said, when I asked her if I could use the site to find a babysitter.

Indeed, Nextdoor.com’s mission is to help deliver a connection to your neighbors, who you might not see on a regular basis. On their website, the mission statement states, “Nextdoor is the neighborhood hub for trusted connections and the exchange of helpful information, goods, and services.”

So I signed up for an account, but never found a good babysitter, and didn’t log in again for quite some time. It wasn’t until the other night when, out of curiosity, I decided to log back in to see if anyone knew how to find a dog breeder (we’ve been thinking about getting a dog), that I began to see how the site has morphed into a very familiar place, one that I said goodbye to several years ago — Facebook.

Nextdoor’s platform is very similar to Facebook — there are chat options, direct messaging options (an inbox, if you will), a Home button where general postings are located, advertisements, and announcements from public service agencies. Besides the PSAs from local governments, which I find useful, I couldn’t help but notice that the vast majority of postings have things in common with my old, retired Facebook world.

First, there are chain messages, which are public to everyone on the site, but seems to be a conversation between a small group of people. Perhaps one person made a statement, another person responded, which allowed everyone else to see, and that person might have expressed their opinion, which caused the original person to respond, and another response came from the second person. The cycle of communication went in a circular format, to where it exploded into even more opinions being expressed. In short, things can get political and agitating very quickly.

Secondly, I noticed that, similar to Facebook, a difference of opinion or course of action usually renders an unpopular response, even if that person has legitimate reasons for their opinion. But because their opinion or behavior is not aligned with the general consensus, they tend to be singled out and attacked for their expressions.

Take, for instance, a thread I saw in which a man named David touted his opinions about the coronavirus epidemic. In his opinion, he thought the whole thing is ridiculous, promulgated by the media, and exploded into a social and economic downpour without much sense, ending with reminding people to wash their hands and keep their distance.

Because the general feeling that David expressed sounded like a lack of concern for the virus’s spread, it sent his neighbors into a heated debate, where links, statistics, and numbers were shared, along with their own opinions. “You’re entitled to your own opinion, even if it’s wrong,” one of his neighbors said.

At this point in the thread, I began to feel uncomfortable and decided to scroll down. More postings on neutral subjects, such as lost pets and found ones, people needing jobs, birthday parties, etc. but more often than not, I also saw anger, frustration, anxieties manifested in itself in the words that my neighbors chose to put online, and in the subjects that they posted.

After several more minutes of scrolling, I felt an overwhelming sense of dread came over me — the same feeling I had back when I was on Facebook and experienced for myself the negativity that enclosed itself in my realm. I decided that I could not handle any more posts about mail thefts, car thefts, or thefts in general, or anything associated with people’s negative behaviors. I closed my browser and vowed to not visit the site again for awhile.

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Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

But I get it. Complaints about things out of your control may perhaps be my neighbors’ way of doing what they can to place their mark in the world — to warn others about negative things is better than not saying anything at all, I suppose. In this turn of events, many of us might be feeling out of control, and all we can do instead of expressing our gratitude is express our frustrations.

However, instead of using a social media platform to vent, why not use the platform for its true intended purpose, which is to inform, educate and communicate with your neighbors about the things going on in the neighborhood? If there are few good things, why not express your gratitude?

They say that in times like these, where we don’t know what the future holds for us, one thing we can do is hold on to our hope, our ability to dream. Our world will not be the same once this pandemic is over, but we can choose to be hopeful rather than be vicious to one another.

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