Sept. 25, 2021 — While most individuals who live in close proximity to one another have no physical limitations preventing them from meeting their neighbors, many have no opportunities for location-based social interaction unless they are heavily involved in community events. Nextdoor is a localized social bulletin platform seeking to change this by connecting people within a small area to facilitate discussion and connection.
The geographical locations listed are generally small to ensure that all posts are relevant to the users. While there is a location listing for the area of Florence, Ore., it can also be further divided into 12 individual neighborhoods for the utmost specificity and convenience: Baker Beach, Downtown, Driftwood Shores, Dunes City, Florentine Estates, Glenada, Heceta Beach, Mercer Lake, Munsel Lake, Sutton by the Sea, The Reserve Heceta Lake and Woahink Lake.
Many users, especially during the periods of isolation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, have taken to the platform to connect with their neighbors, get recommendations for dock builders or handymen, report local wildlife sightings, or simply revel in the local natural beauty with daily photos.
Aside from being an informative tool to stay updated locally, many users prefer its social aspect and use it to form friendships with others in the area.
When a user creates a new Nextdoor account, they are first prompted to introduce themselves, an opportunity which many take to give a brief outline of their location, hobbies and interests, prompting responses from people with shared traits who often propose meeting in person for social gatherings.
On his inspiration for starting Nextdoor, co-founder and CEO Nirav Tolia stated in a Jan. 18, 2018, article in Entrepreneur that his main goal is “Creating things that make the world a better place with good people. I like to build things from scratch. It's why I like to start companies.”
He has also highlighted the potential for security improvement through such a localized discussion board as one of the primary advantages of Nextdoor.
Members of the Florence-adjacent community seem to similarly recognize the security benefits of the platform.
In response to a post asking about users’ favorite aspects of the platform, one user responded, “I find it valuable that pictures and information can be posted right away to be on the lookout for home and car intrusions. Most recently, 35th and even Florentine have had multiple cars broken into.”
Other users prefer the social interaction that Nextdoor enables and how it strips away some of the political contentions so often seen on other social media platforms.
“I like that the Nextdoor platform doesn’t invite naked politics on its newsfeed and helps us see our neighbors as something other than the political opposition. Instead as people part of something larger than ourselves,” another user posted.
Nextdoor also has a large influence in the wildlife-watching community, as it ensures that all viewers of the post are within a reasonable distance of the sighting.
A new Florence resident posted, “I just moved here so I appreciate all the insight about the wildlife that I am not accustomed to. I have received lots of advice on the recent bear activity in our neighborhood.”
Many communities tend to have high concentrations of people with certain interests and Nextdoor allows them to communicate and collaborate with other local enthusiasts they would likely not have met otherwise. Outside of Florence, the Newport Nextdoor group has a small astronomical community in which members exchange advice on identifying planets, star identification apps, and even used telescopes.
Additionally, the feature of being able to view the bulletins of neighboring areas can encourage residents to expand their typical area of familiarity and to visit nearby towns, cities, and natural features.
In terms of localized community-building, Nextdoor is a refreshing new interpretation of social media and how it can be used to build real bonds between those living in close proximity. It also is evidence to the fact that technology can be used to foster community and restore tight-knit neighborhood connections without the divisive content of more traditional social platforms.
Ferris Haukom is a sophomore at Stanford Online High School who is a new intern for the Siuslaw News and an associate editor at the OHS Observer. Aside from journalism, he is interested in quantum physics, programming, entrepreneurship and music, specifically violin, viola, orchestral conducting and classical composition. Haukom and his family reside in the Florence area, and he often travels as a member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Composer Fellowship Program.