Among the promises of the new age online is that our words and deeds would somehow, individually, amount to something greater, collectively.
And since 2016, we have lived inside the dark promise of that fantasy. We are hostages, basically, to a little computer that we keep in our pocket, a device that beeps and buzzes and infiltrates our life, not always for good.
Nextdoor is an app that you sign up for to keep in touch with your neighborhood. Lost cats, block parties, break-ins, yard sales, all of everything that used to go on without you knowing, is there for you 24/7.
I signed up with some hesitation since I publish this blog without monitors, group opinions or censorship.
But hell, I thought, why not join Next Door, since I can report suspicious activity, life-threatening crimes in progress, and the local bank robbery along with saying I saw Mrs. Lopez’s lost cat.
Last week, I came home from the gym and saw a middle-aged man riding a boy’s bicycle. He was wearing a backpack and pedaling slowly and looking to the left and the right as he passed every home on my block.
I had recently seen a NextDoor post about a porch theft. The thief had ridden up, then backwards maneuvered to a front door, swiped a package and rode away without his face becoming visible to the home’s security camera.
I probably posted something like this about the slow-riding man on a bike:
“Man pedaling slowly, wearing backpack, looking at every home on the street, possibly Latino?”
The reaction? Not neighborly gratitude or appreciation but this:
“You probably don’t go out much do you? He is on the street every day and I’ve never seen him steal anything.”
“I wonder if you would have posted this if he were white?”
A few months earlier, I had posted about a person walking their pit bull who let the dog crap on the grass and never picked it up.
That elicited this comment:
“Not all pitbull owners behave like this so I hope you don’t mean to insult us all by this post but I find it very insensitive.”
There is another kind of announcement on NextDoor for urgent events, such as car chases, or robberies in progress, or child abductions. When you post these, people’s phones beep and flash. One of my neighbors used it to post something like this:
“URGENT ALERT! Somebody took a small ceramic planter off my lawn last night!”
When I pointed out that this was not an URGENT ALERT, he would not stand to be corrected. He used the theft of his planter to expound on the URGENT un-safety of our street:
“Yes Andrew it is URGENT! A few months ago my elderly mother was accosted by a drunken man on our driveway and terrified by the experience. So this theft of our planter goes along with other events that are URGENT!”
When this blog recently wrote about the garbage filled streets of Van Nuys, a reader told me he had posted a link to the article on NextDoor and it was taken down for “violating community standards.” Why are the sanitary conditions of our area considered obscene or offensive speech?
NextDoor can be helpful, mostly by informing people about events that have already happened: a woman attacked, a house broken into, a criminal apprehended.
But mostly it is an organ of stupidity, insensitivity, and misunderstanding.
I’m quitting NextDoor (again) and think I can live quite happily without its helpful, neighborly, kind posts.