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New App Brings The Neighbourhood To Your Phone

Nextdoor Makes Social Networking Local

It has been stated often enough to become a truism that social media is shrinking our world. Now we can maintain good friendships with people halfway across the planet, do business as the sun sets in one market and rises in another, and get updated on our family’s holidays in real time. In many senses this is a good thing – our lives and experiences are no longer restricted by the happenstance of geography.

One new app, however, is breaking with this trend and using social media to go local – and people are going with it. Nextdoor is the anti-global social network, an app which connects people living in the same neighbourhood but who in today’s increasingly fractured society never got to know their neighbours. Signing up requires a proof of address, and messages posted on the app can only be seen by those in the immediate area.

The company is rapidly gaining in popularity, having reached 40,000 neighbourhoods across America – approximately one in four. While like many wildly popular tech start-ups it has yet to turn a profit, it has attracted over $100 million in venture capital funding and is well on the way towards building a monetisation strategy.

Members discuss a breadth of local issues on the app’s secure message boards. They notify one another when they’ll be away, ask for someone to walk the dog or water the lawn, and discuss local concerns like traffic or construction work. It’s also proved useful for crime prevention; local police often join the network, and in San Diego residents alerted the police to a suspicious car which turned out to be stolen.

The geographically based nature of the app also helps when area authorities need to convey location-specific information. When there were wildfires spreading through the outskirts of some suburbs in California, alerts could be sent out to threatened neighbourhoods via Nextdoor so as to alert those in danger without the necessity of a mass evacuation.

It’s not all about doom and gloom though. Residents also use the service to compare restaurant reviews, let each other know about sales at local shops, and just generally keep in touch.

It may appear depressing to some that people seem to need the intermediary of a screen to coax them back into the kind of community spirit which would have come naturally perhaps thirty years ago. Surely if people wanted to talk to their neighbours they could just…talk to their neighbours? But social media has fundamentally altered the way in which people communicate in all areas of their life, and Nextdoor provides a necessary gateway into the return of social living which many experts regard as essential to a higher quality of day-today life.

Nextdoor also provides a forum where people can discuss issues which may have a negative impact on the way in which an area is perceived without any worry that it will leak out into the wider world and have an effect on property prices, for instance. The app has a four and a half star rating on both the Apple App Store and Google Play, so there’s clearly a public appreciation for the service. So while a garden fence may have been all that was between neighbours before, now you only need a Wi-Fi connection.

Douglas is an English Literature graduate who has written about everything from music to food to theatre, now a content creator for Social Media Frontiers. No topic too large or too small. Follow him @DouglasAtSMF.

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New App Brings The Neighbourhood To Your Phone Reviewed by Anonymous on Wednesday, August 20, 2014 Rating: 5
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