Nextdoor.com: Get to know the neighbors
My parents moved into the new-construction suburban home in which I grew up in the early '50s. My mother made her first neighborhood friend when they were out pushing baby carriages in the winter. Together with their husbands, the new friends took dance lessons with other neighborhood couples they met. They threw summer backyard barbecues and holiday parties. There was no lack of contact with neighbors in those days, but they were all middle class and all the same age with husbands who had fought and returned in tact after WW2.
The good old days: you knew who lived next door
As kids, my siblings and I were in and out of our next door neighbors' house all the time. When I went trick-or-treating, we knew which neighbors gave out the best candy, which ones were never home, and which ones were always grumpy. My grandmother, who lived with us and spent a lot of time at home, seemed to know all about the neighbors' activities by looking out the window. Instant surveillance.
We didn't have our heads buried in cell phones. We saw what was going on, sometimes for better or worse. Today, neighbors are isolated in plain sight of one another. As a way to meet my neighbors three years ago, I adopted my rescue dog to have a reason to walk the neighborhood and to stop and chat with people in case I saw anyone outside. It worked. I probably know a lot more people in my neighborhood than I would have otherwise.
Can Nextdoor.com help create safe neighborhoods?
Recently, another neighbor sent invites by snail mail to join Nextdoor.com, a free social network for communities. Their mission statement is to "build stronger and safer neighborhoods." I already know a fair amount of people, but it doesn't hurt to know more since so many don't stay put these days.
In the less than a week since I joined Nextdoor.com, I introduced a handful of the people I know in person to the app. Then I started a conversation about a situation that I'd previously mentioned to both the property management and one of the HOA board members: trash and dirty diapers that keep accumulating in the park. The landscapers cleaned it up once, but one or two pieces of new trash show up nearly every day.
As soon as I mentioned it, a very new neighbor that I haven't met personally, but who joined Nextdoor.com right after I did, responded that someone was throwing not only trash but canned goods and broken glass into their yard. This prompted the HOA board president, who joined shortly after her, to suggest that she would recommend that the board install a security camera in the park or implement random security patrols. The neighbor and her family are not only new to the neighborhood, but also this city, so I hope that we can allay her fears and show her that this is a good place to live.
If you read the reviews of Nextdoor.com, you'll find a lot of negative feedback about moderators acting like dictators and bigoted neighbors racially profiling each other. I live in a very diverse neighborhood, one of the reasons I like it so much. I'm hoping we can use this tool of technology as those who developed it say they intended: to bring neighbors closer and make neighborhoods safer.
We need not mourn the good old days. Our neighbors may spend more time devoted to personal and family pursuits, but we all want a safe place to call home for ourselves and our families. Getting to know each other better and sharing our common concerns hopefully can help eliminate fear of the "unknown" from ruining the safety of our neighborhood.