Photo Credit: Courtesy of NextDoor
On Saturday, my husband or I must have left the back door open as we grilled and gardened and otherwise dorked out in our first-ever backyard as new homeowners, and we briefly lost sight of one of our two cats. As we paced up and down the blocks near our house shaking a container of dry food and peering nervously, hopefully into neighbors’ yards, I was kicking myself for not signing up for the new neighborhood-centric social network, about which I’d received a promotional postcard just the day before. Stupid Murphy’s law.
The site is called Nextdoor, and it’s a free and private online hub for neighbors. Among the central ideas behind it is to promote safety and stability by connecting residents in a given area.
On Monday, the San Francisco-based company released the results of nationwide poll that showed more than two-thirds of homeowners feel safer in their homes and neighborhoods because they know their neighbors. And three-fourths of U.S. adults polled said they thought their neighborhoods would be safer if they communicated more with neighbors. Close to one-third said they wish they knew more people in their neighborhoods. And nearly three-quarters of homeowners report that because they know their neighbors, they are confident their neighbors will do something to intervene if they see anything suspicious around their homes.
Here’s what could have helped us this weekend: 25 percent of Americans who know their neighbors say because of this, they have received help with a lost pet or helped a neighbor with a lost pet or rescue animal.
Prior to Nextdoor, attempts at connecting neighbors have included primarily listservs and email lists. Sites like HomeElephant.com and NeighborTree.com have attempted to create social networks for communities, but Nextdoor seems most poised for wide-range growth.
Next time Jazzy gets out, I’m going to have an online resource before I panic and paper Los Angeles with “lost kitty” signs -- because I just signed up for Nextdoor. So far, my neighborhood has about 20 participants out of more than 300 total residents, but it’s a start. Nextdoor reports that it’s in 4,015 neighborhoods in 48 states. But of course, its success depends on the enrollment of as many neighbors as possible. (So everyone: sign up! It will help us all work toward safety and, well, neighborliness.)
Here’s hoping my participation will be a great chance for hubby and me to get to know local folks despite our frenetic work schedules. Surely if I can devote time to “liking” photos of fancy cocktails posted on Facebook by far-flung friends from journalism school, I can make time to learn the names of the folks down the block.
Alesandra Dubin is a Los Angeles-based writer. Follow her on Twitter: @alicedubin.