Revisiting The Friendly Neighborhood Social Network

November 8, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-11-06 at 7.04.45 AMAbout two months ago, I grabbed the contents of my mailbox at home and found a simple postcard… which caught my attention because who ever sends postcards any more?

Well, this one was from something called Nextdoor. The postcard was directed to me by a guy I didn’t know, but who lived just down the street from my house. Printed on the card was an invitation to log on and join a new social network built specifically for my neighborhood in South Minneapolis. It promised to bring my neighbors and me closer together and serve as a forum to talk about local issues, plan events and – in a clear Craigslist rip-off – sell unwanted crap.

Regular Peepshow readers may remember a post about Nextdoor from Allison back in July. Here was her final assessment on the network:

I’ve since stopped checking my page. I found I enjoy my neighbors more if I tune out the online annoyances and chat with them on the front lawn or share a beer with them in my backyard. I love technology as much as the next person, but when it starts to compromise interpersonal relationships and conversations, I’ve found that’s where I draw the line.

Despite Alli’s distaste for the site, I decided to check it out, and I was instantly a little intrigued. My neighborhood – very unlike Alli’s – is definitely not one of those where everybody knows everybody. We seem to be cordial more than friendly, and that’s just fine with me. But still, there was a part of me that was interested in at least kind of getting to know a few people in my immediate vicinity. So I bit. I set up an account and was the third or fourth person to do so in the Wenonah neighborhood of Minneapolis.

Over time, this network has begun to function a lot like a cross between Facebook, LinkedIn and Craigslist. Surprisingly, people are using it. In fact, about 30 Wenonah residents are now in my Nextdoor network. And they’re vocal.

Look at that! We're making friends!

Look at that! We’re making friends!

I’ve seen mayoral election posts supporting various candidates. A teenage girl offering to cat sit. Items for sale, from scooters to above-ground pools to a doll collection. And damn if somebody didn’t publicize a community block party back in September. Of course I didn’t attend, but honestly, it’s kind of cool to watch my corner of Minneapolis create a little social community that’s unique to us.

Wanna hit the block party? Absolutely not, but thanks for the invite!

Wanna hit the block party? Absolutely not, but thanks for the invite!

The very premise of this network limits how large one’s circle can be based on geography and population. So that’s a little weird. But after a few months of checking it out, I think it’s kind of a cool concept, and certainly can be a good tool in serious ways, such as crime prevention and other community matters. Beyond the practical benefits, it’s also interesting to “get to know” people on a site like Nextdoor, then open your front door and actually see some of them.

As I mentioned, my neighborhood (unlike Alli’s) doesn’t have a lot of adult block parties with fun and friendly people who are eager to see you, catch up and have a few drinks. Maybe the Nextdoor simply offers some clues about the microcosm you inhabit. While the experience may have been a downer for Allison, it actually seems to fit the people of Wenonah a little better.

Apparently some weird things are going down in Wenonah

Apparently some weird things are going down in Wenonah