Most days, NextDoor restores my faith in humanity. Often, the first posts of the day are my neighbors asking for advice on home repairs, improvements and maintenance, or trying to connect pets, pictures and other items with their missing humans, or posting funny cat memes.
Many times, NextDoor allows neighbors to look out for one another, warning of police activity, sharing cooling shelter information on excessively hot days, and providing personal safety tips. NextDoor helps neighbors find work, helps friends find housing, shares dates and locations for trainings, classes and other opportunities for fun and self-improvement.
Most of the time, NextDoor works as designed. Most of the time I feel my NextDoor neighbors genuinely care about me and all members of the community. At those times, NextDoor works as a network for good people trying to be nice to and for one another.
There is also a less kind side to NextDoor. While it doesn’t come out often, mean words sting when our NextDoor neighbors vilify one another for differences of opinion.
NextDoor is and should continue to be a place where reasonable neighbors can disagree and share their differences. Disagreement, like diversity, enriches us and gives us opportunities to learn and be exposed to people, ideas and experiences different from our own. But sometimes NextDoor neighbors start insulting one another for their differences, and once the insults begin, the NextDoor “neighborhood” breaks down.
On one recent thread, the conversation transitioned from “our dog is missing” to “check Front Street Shelter” to “I bet the homeless stole him.” I am aware that a homeless person could have an animal that belongs to one of my neighbors. The issue, from my perspective, wasn’t the thought that a person who is homeless might have taken the pet. It was the derision that the words imply, that only homeless people steal our pets.
I recently was on the “giving” end of mean-spirited words, and when the people I attacked shared their hurt and concern with me, I was disappointed in myself and pledged to do better. I’m fortunate that my neighbors were willing to speak with me, to expose their disappointment, and to trust that I truly would prefer to be a nicer person.
I hope all of us would choose to be nicer. The world is harsh enough, and our NextDoor neighbors should be people we can talk to with civility and respect, even when we disagree.