Photo from nextdoor.com
Imagine the main concept behind Facebook, a network that lets you communicate with friends, share information and create a personal profile, but instead apply it to a neighborhood level. This idea has become the relatively-new website Nextdoor.com, which allows people to create a social network exclusively within their own community. Nextdoor was originally launched in the Bay Area, but has since spread to other locations including the city of Goleta.
After hearing about Nextdoor at a conference, the city manager thought that it would be an excellent way to promote communication within and between neighborhoods and the surrounding city. This happened to coincide with the anniversary of Goleta’s tenth birthday.
Valerie Kushnerov, a public information officer working at the City of Goleta, elaborated on how Nextdoor came to reach our community.
“It seemed like a natural connection to the city’s growth and maturity, and establishing stronger bonds within our neighborhoods,” said Kushnerov.
Goleta was divided into 22 different sections based on geographic boundaries. Each one of these districts has the option of creating its own Nextdoor system, which is available only to people living within that neighborhood. The actual process of creating a network can be done by anyone living in that community- it only takes one person to sign up and then invite others.
Kushnerov explained the different functions of Nextdoor, and how people use it.
“People post pieces of information and then they can either receive them as they are updated or receive a digest every day of everything that’s been posted in the neighborhood,” she said.
The website puts an emphasis on neighborhood security and communication in the description: “It’s the easiest way for you and your neighbors- and only you and your neighbors- to talk online and make your lives better in the real world.”
“Users can post as much or as little as they would like,” said Kushnerov. “They can put up pictures, the names of their children or just list their name and the street that they live on.”
Additionally, Nextdoor is likely to help increase community safety, since neighbors can share information and report nearby crimes or suspicious activity on the site.
“I think it will raise awareness of crimes in different neighborhoods, so people will be more vigilant about things like locking their doors and using motion-sensor lighting,” Kushnerov said.
Nextdoor was very well-received by residents from its initial founding, and has only gotten more popular over time.
“We’ve seen a great increase in the number of people every week,” said Kushnerov.
One Goleta resident, Scott Craig, said that his experience with Nextdoor has been great so far.
“I’ve found it helpful in a lot of different ways,” said Craig. “Too often, in today’s day and age, we may know the people next door to us, but we don’t necessarily know the people across the street or a block away. I think that there’s a real value in communicating with your neighbors and being able to talk.”
Craig agreed with Kushnerov in that Nextdoor can help reduce crime rates in neighborhoods. He said that there have been several break-ins in his community and through Nextdoor people have been able to send out alerts so residents know what to look out for.
The popularity of Nextdoor within Goleta has had positive effects for the website in general- two other nearby cities have seen how well it’s done and have interest in starting their own network because of it.
Efforts to strengthen community interactions can do wonders for both the community as a whole and the individuals within it. Nextdoor is a great example of this and fully modernizes the concept of neighborhood ties by putting it online, where a lot of communication takes place in this modern age. There is evidence that if neighbors are somehow connected they are more likely to share resources, have higher educational performance, enjoy lower crime rates and be happier overall.
“We as a city think that all of these are good things, and believe that Nextdoor will help us to create a stronger, safer community,” said Kushnerov.