Going Nextdoor

Today’s world is a fast-paced and increasingly tech-centric world, yet despite our virtual connectivity, many of us feel disconnected from the community at large.  A 2014 study conducted by Harris Interactive found that just 14 percent of Americans have a way to communicate with most or all of their neighbors.

One tool taking aim at that low number is Nextdoor, a social media network founded in 2010 in San Francisco. Users begin by going to the website and entering their name and address to create a profile. The free platform then connects them with other users in the same small geographic proximity. For example, my address placed me in the private West/East Mid-City group, which is composed of users living between Washington and Adams boulevards and West and Redondo boulevards. The homepage operates very much like a group page on facebook: I leave a message on the board and can choose if I want only the 102 members of my group to read it and reply or to also give access to the various immediate surrounding community groups connected to mine.. (Those concerned about privacy can alter their settings to hide their exact street address.)


When a local resident complained on Nextdoor that her property had been compromised by the activities of the homeless in the park next to her, Nextdoor member and community Clean Up Activist, Krishna McCain (in red plaid) rallied the people in the park to participate in a clean up. 

According to Nextdoor’s mission statement, the company believes that “when neighbors start talking, good things happen.”  A quick skim of my own neighborhood board demonstrated the point. As I read over messages, I spotted a post that shared new data from the 2015 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count; a user hoping to find a new family for a beloved nanny; a request for suggestions for a local computer repair shop; a lost dog announcement; a reminder about the local Third Thursday on Pico shopping event; and a message that offered a bag of limes from the user’s garden. All of them had been posted in a 48-hour period. 

“In an age when you rarely know your neighbors, Nextdoor is a great way to connect,” said Janine Sorenson, who spoke with TNN about her own experience on the website. She, too, is a member of the West/East Mid-City group. “It's helped me realize that many others share my same concerns, whether it be about street and sidewalk maintenance, graffiti, or even which local restaurants are the best.”

Users are also likely to notice another important trend: Through the Nextdoor for Public Agencies network, city agencies can now communicate with residents via the website. For example, police officers might post calls for action or delineate information about neighborhood safety and local crime, taking advantage of the fact that each community board is essentially a neighborhood watch group. On the West/East Mid-City board, heat maps showing recent criminal activity are posted regularly; some have resulted in useful dialogue between the posting officer and board members.

“It's ridiculously easy to use — anyone with a Facebook account can figure it out,” Sorenson said. “The downside I think is that some posts can become divisive or catty. But the dialogue that results can sometimes be positive; it gives an eye into a variety of perspectives.” 

Running into opposing opinions is bound to happen, and its perfectly fine to disagree with a fellow Nextdoor user so long as the discussion remains cordial in tone. The company expects users to uphold a high standard of behavior — no message should contain profanity or remarks that might be perceived as accusatory, discriminatory or profiling. Users are discouraged from sharing political opinions, unless they create or join a separate Nextdoor group dedicated to just that — yet another way to use the website. Examples of possible groups include cyclists, seniors and food enthusiasts. 

Users also have the power to keep each other in check. Just as on Facebook, each post on Nextdoor is accompanied by a drop-down menu. If a user flags an inappropriate post, he or she has a chance to explain why the post should be taken down. A Nextdoor team member will review the message and determine whether or not it should be removed. There’s also a mute function that allows one member to no longer see the messages of a selected user. Of course, like everywhere else, the Golden Rule applies — treat others as you would like to be treated. 

TNN encourages you to connect with more neighbors. If you are interested in doing so with Nextdoor, visit www.nextdoor.com. Apps for iPhones and Android devices are also available.

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Established in August of 2008 by writerartist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.

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