Creepy Community?

— by Andy Wade —

communitySteve Knight over at Patheos just posted a question and video (below) about the new app called Nextdoor. According the the New York Times, nextdoor.com is “a neighborhood-based social network.” But really it’s much more. Imagine being able to see and share resources from lawnmowers to babysitting to elder care. Imagine being able to communicate with your entire neighborhood about your over-abundance of tomatoes or your need for a few more cucumbers to finish up your canning project. The potential for cultivating community, nurturing relationships, and living into “love your neighbor” is amazing!

The truth is a majority of people may know the neighbor to left or the right of their house, but not necessarily the folks that live three doors down or the next block over. Nextdoor is a great “ice breaker” to help get conversations started. We have found that online conversations foster offline interactions. For communities that are already well connected, Nextdoor is a an easy, secure and efficient way to communicate and organize.

Kelsey Grady, Senior Communications Manager, Nextdoor

And yet I have to admit, I’m conflicted about this. I can see how an app like this could foster community, or at least communication, within a neighborhood. I can also see how this could foster stalking and other creepy activities. As I watched the video I kept swinging between excitement and anxiety. Since they are rolling out this service and are currently only up to 2,000 neighborhoods, I don’t have any personal experience. But my gut reaction is that community relationships need to come first: get to know the people in your neighborhood, plan community events/gatherings, share garden plants and produce, build face-to-face friendships.

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Jerry Oldenettel via Compfight

Once that is accomplished I think a tool like this could be wonderful. Without first tilling the neighborhood soil I think the potential for pseudo relationships built on utility and convenience rather than true friendships is likely. Without loosening the soil any weeds (problems) that sprout will be more difficult to pull out. Keeping with the gardening analogy, we often identify weeds and want to yank them out without first discovering if they truly are weeds or perhaps actually have something beneficial to offer our community garden (for example, dandelions and purslane). This kind of identification/understanding happens only when we get our hands into the soil of our community, not by impersonal, online communication.

Watch the video then let us know what you think:

  1. Would this be helpful in creating community where you live?
  2. What excites you about it?
  3. What concerns you?
  4. How might something like this expand your missional reach from more non-traditional co-housing communities discussed by Tom Sine in our mustardseedconspiracy section?