in Meddling, Raleigh, Reviews

Nextdoor: the online version of a gated community

Many of the neighborhoods in and around mine are signing up for the Nextdoor social media site to manage their neighborhood communication. Nextdoor is a social media site which provides a forum for neighbors to post. From Nextdoor’s About page:

Nextdoor is the private social network for you, your neighbors and your community. It’s the easiest way for you and your neighbors to talk online and make all of your lives better in the real world. And it’s free.

Thousands of neighborhoods are already using Nextdoor to build happier, safer places to call home.

People are using Nextdoor to:

  • Quickly get the word out about a break-in
  • Organize a Neighborhood Watch Group
  • Track down a trustworthy babysitter
  • Find out who does the best paint job in town
  • Ask for help keeping an eye out for a lost dog
  • Find a new home for an outgrown bike
  • Finally call that nice man down the street by his first name

Nextdoor’s mission is to bring back a sense of community to the neighborhood, one of the most important communities in each of our lives.

Sounds groovy, doesn’t it? The problem is with the fourth word in the description:

“Nextdoor is the private social network …”

Nextdoor is all about walling off neighborhoods from others. It’s the online equivalent of a gated community. There’s nothing in the above list of Nextdoor features that can’t be done with a neighborhood email list, one that the community can own and control, not some private company.

I tried out Nextdoor last year and was immediately frustrated that my little 19-home neighborhood was cut off from the larger community. Apparently I can’t be a member of Bennett Woods and be a member of the larger East CAC community. On the other hand, I’m easily able to subscribe to email lists which have different scopes. Nextdoor couldn’t handle this when I tried last year and as far as I know it still can’t.

Here’s my main concern with Nextdoor: it kills cross-neighborhood collaboration. My neighborhood can’t communicate with the one right “next door” to it because of Nextdoor’s virtual walls. Is there a suspicious person on the way to the nearby neighborhood from this one? Tough luck! Nextdoor won’t let me tell my nearby neighbors if I don’t live there! Do adjacent neighborhoods want to team up on a litter collection project along the street or creek we share? Too bad! If you’re not on Nextdoor’s map you don’t exist!

Nextdoor used to have a “Nearby Neighborhoods” link but the company disabled it. The company says:

While we heard many stories about the positive impact Nearby Neighborhoods was having in communities, we also heard lots of feedback from users about ways the feature needs to be improved.

We will restore the ability to communicate with nearby neighbors once we have addressed those suggestions. We are confident that the right implementation of Nearby Neighborhoods will advance our shared mission to build stronger and safer neighborhoods.

I’m not holding my breath that Nextdoor will find that “right implementation,” since it seems to be all about raising barriers instead of breaking them down. The result is neighborhoods that circle the wagons instead of reaching out across neighborhood borders to strengthen the larger community.

No thanks. Email may have colossal faults but at least it doesn’t discriminate against where one lives.

  1. I looked at implementing Nextdoor for my neighborhood. Everyone decided that they’d rather no have an additional network to keep up with. Our private Facebook group is working just fine and it’s something that people were using already. It’s a slight bit of bother to manage membership invites, but it’s only slight…

  2. ps – your .htaccess rules are wonky – I’m getting the KTHXBAI image messages on your site.

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