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I joined Nextdoor about a year and a half to two years ago after getting an invite in the mail from someone in my neighborhood who started a group on the app. I looked forward to reading about issues facing my and surrounding communities, learning about upcoming events like yard sales, fun gatherings, neighborhood watch news, and other things of general interest to people who care about and want to stay involved in local activities that would better their neighborhood.

Seriously
People on social media behaving badly. Who woulda guessed?

Sometimes the information shared on the app is very useful, informative. People post photos from community events. Others share news about lost pets (many of which are, thankfully, found). Every once in a while, someone writes about a crime that has impacted the area. Or someone inquires about reputable repairman to fix their various issues around the house (or outside).

But then there are the times where people on the app are just annoying as hell.

Like the responses to the times someone posts about an issue with a dog in the neighborhood (off leash and scaring neighbors, loud barking at all hours on the night, etc). Or the replies when others post news about crime or of the possibility of “affordable housing units” being built nearby.

That’s when some neighbors don’t just become unfriendly. They become downright rude – and in the process totally destroy the reason such apps like Nextdoor were created in the first place.

I’ve talked to a number of friends and family members in different parts of the country who have had similar experiences, as well as seen others posts about Nextdoor on other apps, so I know I’m not the only one.

I know social media being what it is that you can’t escape from people from being obnoxious, irritating, and overly judgmental. But some folks on the Nextdoor app take it to the next level.

It is without fail that nearly every time someone posts a concern about a dog running off leash, a concern troll will step in, slamming the poster for “not talking to the neighbor directly”* instead of “shaming them” in a public forum (this is usually after the OP has stated they don’t know who the dog owner is, which is one of the reasons they’re posting about it on the app in the first place).

Then others chime in, offended that the OP would use the opportunity to “paint all dog owners as bad simply because of the actions of a few” and then demand that the OP pull the post. Sometimes the OP will pull the post simply due to the grief they get over merely expressing the concerns about a dog running loose (typical OP concerns are, ‘Will it hurt me or my family?’ or ‘Will someone speeding through the neighborhood hit the dog?’ or ‘Is the dog hurt/lost?’).

The comments to posts about a rise in criminal activity or affordable housing units oftentimes devolve into accusations of racism. “Why not just say what you really mean?” from a commenter = “Why not just come out and say you don’t like people who don’t look like you?” More often than not in the instances I’ve seen, the OP came off as genuinely concerned about crime issues

And people expressing concerns about the possibility of affordable housing units being built nearby are either treated as racists or people who “don’t give enough damn about their community to stick around and fight” or who are “more concerned about the bottom (dollar) line (the potential loss of home value)” than “fighting for their communities.”

And then the Nextdoor moderators will pull the post because it’s gotten ugly.

What neighborhoods are we actually helping when conversations get shut down because perpetually offended people can’t help themselves?

This isn’t fostering dialogue. It’s shutting it down.

It’s like people don’t assume the best about their fellow neighbor anymore. There’s always a “hidden reason” why someone would post about pets running loose, or crime, or express their worry about potential property devaluation. And in the minds of concern trolls and virtue signalers, the posted concern is only genuine if it’s someone they know and like. Or if they themselves post it.

While there’s no question that some who post about these various issues do not have good motives behind their comments (it’s usually fairly obvious), in the majority if cases (at least in my experiences) the neighbor’s comments should be taken at face value. Why?

Consider that you can’t be anonymous on Nextdoor and that some of the people you go back and forth with on the app are either people you know personally or who you could come in contact with in person at some point. Most people don’t want to be combative in person or online and recognize that fostering healthy relationships with other members of the community – whether via an app or face to face – is an important step in staying connected to what’s going on, and to making their neighborhoods safer, more vibrant, and stronger.

We all have vested interests in keeping conversations open and honest.

I have a piece of advice for people who are in outrage mode 24-7: Please stay off the Nextdoor app, and let the people who are genuinely interested in bettering their neighborhoods have their discussions without fear of unappointed hall monitors stepping in and trying to shame them into shutting up.

*All quotes are paraphrases

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