If you're tired of Facebook, try Nextdoor

A lot of people are upset with Facebook right now because of censorship. I have a Facebook account that I rarely post to for reasons that pre-date the current censorship dust-up.  Specifically, I've never particularly liked the platform as a virtual alternative to face-to-face interaction with people. Also, there's a lot of care and feeding involved, since the people you're interacting with are your "friends," which is sometimes true but most often is (at least in my case) Facebook's default characterization of the relationship.

That said, there is a social media platform that I do like, which is Nextdoor.  For the uninitiated, it's social media on the level of a neighborhood; the people you're interacting with live near you.  The posts on Nextdoor tend to be about everyday concerns.  An example is a neighbor posting a picture of a spider he sees in his house: "Help!  Saw this guy hiding in a corner and don't know whether he's poisonous!  Anyone know what kind of spider this is?"

By observation, I can report that the plurality of posts on Nextdoor concern lost pets: "My cat's name is Mr. Puffball, and he's gone missing since yesterday morning.  He has a collar and was last seen at the corner of Walnut and Central.  If you see Mr. P, please reply with location.  Thanks!"  If you check back on these posts, the vast majority have happy endings.  So Nextdoor adds value due to its location-centric nature.  A similar post on Facebook would be useless.

Posters also use Nextdoor as a virtual neighborhood crime watch, though I think the jury is out on the efficacy of using it for that purpose.  There may be value in giving neighbors a heads-up about patterns, though.  Apparently, there has been a spike in catalytic converter theft in the town where I live.

The best thing about Nextdoor is that the posts tend to be much more civil than on Facebook.  I suspect the reason is that you might actually, you know, come face to face with the people you're posting to.  You're less likely to rip your neighbor a new one on Nextdoor because you might see them later at the bank: "Hi, Frank.  Hey, forget what I said about you not returning the—" OOF, BONK, WHAM!  In other words, posting on Nextdoor fosters a culture of people owning their stuff.

I also like how people deploy gentle approbation toward their neighbors on Nextdoor: "To the owner of the silver Nissan Sentra parked on Main this afternoon, you should NEVER leave your dog in the car with the windows rolled up.  I sat there for fifteen minutes to see if you came back and then called the police.  Sorry if that seems heavy-handed, but I may have saved your dog's life."  This serves as both a gentle rebuke to the owner and a reminder to the community at large.  In this way, Nextdoor can encourage maintenance of community standards.

This is what social media should be: a real community (the neighborhood), with the social media functionality grafted onto it, rather than a virtual community that is largely detached from the norms of civil society and mostly serves as a data-mining operation and advertising scheme.

Finally, here's a suggestion: when you post on any social media, pretend you're posting on Nextdoor.  In other words, own your stuff.  It might make the world a nicer place.

Image: Chris Dlugosz via Flickr, CC BY 2.0 (cropped).

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