Most social networking sites let you connect with friends and family wherever they live; for example, Facebook might keep you in touch with kids and grandkids who’ve moved away and long-lost friends who live across the globe, as well as your friend across town.
Nextdoor is different.
A free, private social network for your neighborhood, it’s all about people using Internet technology to connect with their real-world communities. The founders of Nextdoor believe a neighborhood is one of the most important and useful communities in our lives. Their goal is to reestablish connections lost among neighbors – or to establish ones that never were. To quote their manifesto:
“We believe technology is a powerful tool for making neighborhoods stronger, safer places to call home. …We’re all about online chats that lead to more clothesline chats.”
We Need Neighbors
When Nextdoor launched in October 2011, almost one-third of Americans didn’t know a single neighbor by name. As people move for jobs, family or affordable housing, neighborhood connections break down. And making new connections isn’t easy. More of us are working past age 65 and have less leisure time to spend with neighbors. And as we age, the likelihood of living alone increases, as does the chance that we’ll spend at least some time stuck at home due to illness or injury.
The beauty of Nextdoor is its ability to jumpstart communications so that when we need a neighbor, or a neighbor needs us, we can tap into an ongoing relationship.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
More than 17,000 urban and suburban neighborhoods have already signed up on Nextdoor. New Yorkers can pick from among more than 1,800 neighborhood options, each representing just a few square blocks. As with all neighborhood set-ups, users are required to enter their real name and street address. (Only first name and neighborhood are displayed.)
Each neighborhood is only visible to people who are verified members and have been confirmed to live in the ‘hood. Neighborhood networks are password-protected and inaccessible by search engines. When someone new joins your network, you’re notified by email and invited to welcome them; you can also private message members of your network and send invites to friends in the ‘hood to join.
The Nextdoor City Program allows police, fire and other city departments to connect with the Nextdoor neighborhoods they serve, sending out informative, crime and/or safety-related posts to residents. In June 2013, the City of New York joined in order to provide regular updates.
How to Use Nextdoor
First, search Nextdoor to see if your neighborhood already exists. If it doesn’t, take the lead and add your neighborhood through an easy sign-up and verification process.
Now the real fun begins! Connect with your neighbors to:
Keep the neighborhood safe Post a message if you see a suspicious person or unusual activity on your street. Or use the site to start a neighborhood watch group.
Check in During heat waves, deep freezes, flu epidemics, floods and at other times when older people are vulnerable, use the site for daily check-ins: If someone fails to check in, a neighbor can go knocking.
Share recommendations Need a reliable house sitter or doctor? Looking for window cleaner? Ask for recommendations.
Borrow, trade or sell Want to borrow a ladder or sell used furniture? This could be a good place to start. Or maybe you have extra tomatoes from your garden to share.
Build a group Been wanting to start a running group? A recipe swap? Try your neighbors.
Build a stronger neighborhood Share information about road work, or create a lost & found. Throw a block party to welcome new neighbors – hold it on your street, but send e-vites via Nextdoor’s event option.
There is some irony about connecting with our neighbors online rather than simply walking across the street to ring their doorbell and chat. But Nextdoor is growing and clearly filling a need we humans have to connect with our communities. It’s also reinforcing the traditional idea of neighbors as people who help and look out for each other. Does it really matter how this happens, as long as there’s a positive result?
Click here to visit Nextdoor.com
Click here for information about the free Nextdoor for iPhone app.
Is your neighborhood part of Nextdoor? Have you found anyone you know on the site?