Meet The Neighbors And Their Opinions
Over the summer Panorama staff members have been lurking and following various social media platforms. Generation Z – which has been taught how to use the internet beginning at a very young age, has a few observations on social media and its users.
First up – the Nextdoor App.
The Palos Verdes Peninsula has its social epicenters: any of the three Starbucks are crowded nearly every day, gym locker rooms are loud with conversations, and Golden Cove is crowded with restaurants.
These local meeting spots are a testament to the tight-knit community on the Hill, but it would be naïve to turn a blind eye to the virtual community that has incubated within Peninsula neighborhoods on Nextdoor.
Nextdoor prides itself on being “the world’s largest social network for the neighborhood.” Existing as both an app and as a website, the company aims to “enable truly local conversations that empower neighbors to build stronger and safer communities.”
As all mission statements do, the basis of Nextdoor relies on a utopian community. However, the quality of these conversations deserves to be dissected.
Coming from Rolling Hills Estates was a post garnering 314 responses asking about how one should go about to keep the homeless away from private commercial property.
Some responders gave suggestions, such as supporting the development of homeless shelters and resource centers. Other users had less than dehumanizing things to say.
Replies such as “How about a remote-control air horn, sprinklers, strobe lights, a flea infestation, or, if it’s not retail, some pitbulls?” These replies earned what would be the equivalent of 11 “likes” in the form of a smiling face.
One user from the neighborhood of “Friendship Park” attributed the homeless crisis to childhood exposure to television and radio, technology and, among other things, single-parent families, asserting that “if we continue to encourage single parent homes, our society will continue to deteriorate.”
Another stated that they had “no compassion for strung-out drug addicts that are ruining peoples [sic] neighborhoods.”
A benefit of Nextdoor is that it is a virtual vessel for discussion. In theory, a user has the time to think out what they are about to post, to do the proper research and write coherently.
Nextdoor’s flaw is that it houses humans that cannot be bound to theory. If the internet is synonymous with speed, fear-led reaction has then found its home. Most people don’t go to Nextdoor looking to respectfully hear the perspectives of others, but rather for validation their own beliefs.
Nextdoor has tried to foster a helpful environment with its Community Guidelines, which include vague wishes, such as “be helpful, not hurtful,” and “don’t use Nextdoor as a soapbox.”
In a post titled, “AB392. Time to take matters in our own hands and take back CA,” a user attempted to summarize a California Assembly bill that sets forth specific rules for justifiable homicide by police officers by employing sweeping generalizations all too common and unproductive in current political discourse.
Responses to the post ranged from reactionary comments, such as “This is what happens when all the [politically-correct] aholes [sic] are in office,” to people asking their peers to read the bill for themselves before drawing their own conclusions.
One user shared that she believed that Nextdoor should be kept free of political discussion, thereby contradicting Nextdoor’s ultimate goal of enabling productive conversation.
While individuals can report posts that go against these guidelines, Nextdoor also relies on “Neighborhood Leads,” or certain individuals that can vote to remove reported content or close discussions in their neighborhood. The efficacy of this system to keep Nextdoor civil remains to be seen.
In one neighborhood of more than 2,000 people, there is only one Neighborhood Lead. Even identifying who a Neighborhood Lead is, is not easily visible or accessible on the site.
A poll and corresponding survey was conducted on Instagram for 24 hours. Poll participants were asked “yes or no” questions: Have you heard of Nextdoor; do you have an account? Survey questions were as follows: If you have an account, how would you describe the environment; if you have used Nextdoor, what was your purpose for joining the site?
Out of 125 high schoolers surveyed on the Peninsula, 65 percent had heard of Nextdoor. Although the vast majority did not have their own accounts, that did not stop students from expressing their opinions of the service.
Around one half of the responses from the social media survey said they understood the mission of Nextdoor, saying that Nextdoor was helpful, friendly and an easy resource for reselling various items, with one stating that her family uses the app to find lost animals.
Conversely, others called the platform “cancerous,” “judgmental” and “combative.” One said she looked on the app through her parent’s account just to see people complain.
The design of Nextdoor is messy: There is no way to easily follow the flow of responses such as a reply thread would, which only empowers users to pop off at the mouth without consequence.
When the internet was first introduced, there was a universal list of rules to follow: Only follow people that you know; don’t talk to strangers online. Through Nextdoor, the teacher has not become the student, but has rather gutted the curriculum in exchange for the allure of the uncivilized atmosphere that Nextdoor was hoping to prevent, but provides.