February 16, 2016

Nextdoor app connects neighbors

Current west Salt Lake City neighborhood divisions recognized on the Nextdoor app.  Hand-illustrated by Sarah Morton
Current west Salt Lake City neighborhood divisions recognized on the Nextdoor app.  Hand-illustrated by Sarah Morton|| Current west Salt Lake City neighborhood divisions recognized on the Nextdoor app. Hand-illustrated by Sarah Morton|| ||
By The West View

You probably already have Facebook, Twitter and Instagram apps installed on your phone, providing you an endless stream of vacation photos, political ranting, duck-faced selfies and what people ate for lunch. Don’t get me wrong; I like knowing what’s going on with my friends and acquaintances, but sometimes long for more meaningful connections with those around me.

Enter Nextdoor, a proven social networking app that allows you to connect with those who have a direct impact on your community: your neighbors.

Nextdoor is a free private social network, similar to Facebook, but unique in that instead of posting to a network of friends in widespread geographic locations, you are posting to a network of your neighbors. Some of these neighbors you will know, but most you will not – making Nextdoor a great place to e-meet new people that you could actually meet in real life.

But Nextdoor does much more than help you get to know people in your community. Its purpose is to increase communication on topics that affect your specific neighborhood, things like crime and safety, lost and found, and recommendations on anything from schools to plumbers.

It makes it easy to track down a good babysitter or quickly get the word out about a break-in or lost dog. Wondering where that fire truck was headed? Nextdoor might know. And is anyone else having problems with raccoons getting into their trash? Chances are yes, and you’ll find them on Nextdoor.

Blake Perez, chair of the Rose Park Community Council says that Nextdoor has been a very effective tool for their group. “It gives us another outlet to provide our neighbors with meeting agendas and minutes. Additionally, we are able to see the conversations people are having about what they would like to see happen in their neighborhood.”

Local agencies like the Salt Lake City Council, the Salt Lake City Police Department, and Salt Lake City’s Civic Engagement Team also use Nextdoor as another avenue to communicate with their constituents. While some might bemoan the presence of government, many will find the reminders about Christmas tree recycling or the tree branch clean-up information from our first winter storm extremely helpful. Connecting residents with resources and information can never be a bad thing.

Of course, the value of such a tool is limited based on the number of people in a neighborhood who are willing to sign up and use it. Rose Park already has 471 users signed up, while Fairpark has 197 and Marmalade has 289. Depending on which neighborhood you are in, you can also see posts from nearby neighborhoods. For example, I can see and post to eight nearby neighborhoods with a total reach of 1,048 members.

If you are worried about privacy, Nextdoor provides some peace of mind. Every neighbor must verify their address and sign in with their real name---no strange usernames are allowed, so you can actually figure out who that person is that lives down the street. The website is securely encrypted and will never share your personal information with third-party advertisers.

According to the New York Times, Nextdoor has expanded its user base over the past three years, but there is still plenty of room for growth. I would love to see some of that growth occur within Salt Lake City’s neighborhoods so that we can foster more connected communities.

Oh, and if you need a good sprinkler repair company, I’ve got a recommendation; I found them on Nextdoor.