Social networks like Facebook and Google+ are great for staying connected with family, friends and coworkers—even fans. But sharing and communicating with practically anyone in the digital realm has alienated us from most of the flesh-and-blood beings we see everyday—our neighbors. How well do you know your neighbors?
A mere 43 percent of Americans know some or all of their neighbors' names, while the remaining 57 percent know only a few neighbors by name—or none at all. But this might change with a new social networking site called Nextdoor that's rolling out nationwide, helping to bridge the distance between the physical community around us in the digital age.
Nextdoor provides free and private neighborhood websites that make it easy for locals to connect to one another to get help on anything in their area. You could gets tips on decent repairmen, ask about road closures, find out what time the park closes, discover a great babysitter, give away a few old movies, locate a lost pet—maybe even borrow a ladder from someone in the flesh. It's the best way to stay up to date on anything going on in your area.
If you want to join your local community in an online community, just visit Nextdoor and input your email address and physical address to see if there's a thriving neighborly network in your area. If there is none yet, you could be the first to bring Nextdoor to your neighborhood, but it requires a certain kind of person:
- Community leaders (e.g. HOA officer or crime watch head)
- Parents who are very involved with the local school
- Neighbor who often organize community events
If you fit the bill, you could be the founding member of your local neighborhood's online faction. But if you want to wait, check back from time to time until one's started in your area. And rest assured that it's safe.
All users must provide their name and address when signing up. Nextdoor then conducts a verification process to make sure the member fits into the boundaries of the online community's jurisdiction. One method is a code sent via a good old-fashioned postcard. Another method is signing up with a phone number or credit card linked to a home address. Existing members can also send official invitations to neighbors who might not know about the site.
After the verification process, users have access to the tools available—neighborhood directory, map, events, marketplace, local service recommendations, nearby resources, etc. And members get to choose what information is displayed on their profiles. You can, but aren't required to reveal your email addresses, home and work phone numbers, and exact street address. If you want, you could just list your street name.
What do you think about Nextdoor? Would you join another social network? Normally, I would say no, but Nextdoor provides an interesting way to get to know your physical surroundings a little bit better in the incorporeal kingdom of the Internet.