Lisa and I lived for a few years in West Allis, and then a decade in Milwaukee. All without social media as part of our neighborhood experience. I really wanted the connection. At least I THOUGHT I did. I even made a website for neighbors called Interchange, based on living near the Zoo Interchange. I should have seen the warning signs even then that social media websites for neighbors can be difficult to navigate.
I opened Interchange up for emails. I got maybe a dozen emails, most of which were completely sane. Two were not. In one, a neighbor told me to stop complaining and called himself a hermit. The other neighbor wanted to complain even more than me, and to me, as if I was the Alderman. Similar to many items I sell online that are my own creative content, I felt emotionally attached to my articles on the website, so when two emails came in giving me grief, I got kind of put-off. Little did I know that Facebook and Nextdoor would be around the corner.
Brentwood Park HOA
In Lenexa, Kansas, we were part of the Brentwood Park HOA, which meant joining the Facebook group. I was a daily roundup of lost dogs and police propaganda. Then someone would say it sounded like a dog was dying, with a neighbor responding that it was theirs. But I could see the tension there. The people were really saying, "Shut your dog up!" The most memorable conflict in the group, however, came during a holiday. The garbage was not picked up a Monday holiday by one of the garbage companies, and it was all anger and condemnation. But then a neighbor said the garbage men maybe deserved a day off, too, and then we all had tickets to Crazy Town. "I worked today" or "My husband worked today." The word "lazy" was used a lot, and I'm fairly certain unions and minority workers were busted with words. But, what surprised me was the amount of personal attacks on the one guy who defended the workers. At least they seemed personal. Yes, I was working that day myself, but I would have liked to have had a day off.
Brentwood East NextDoor
I liked the NextDoor system because my posts could go to all surrounding neighborhoods, so even though it was not the official Brentwood Park Facebook page, there was more exposure. Again, it was mostly used to find dogs. I think there were fewer police posts per capita, and I ignored most of the posts I saw, so I'm not really sure about politics or strong opinions. I was able to get moving boxes, sell some kids' toys, and give away some junk. Actually, I'd say NextDoor was better than Craigslist in KC area for selling anyhing women might be interested in buying, possibly because of some of the crimes commited as as result of CL posts in the area. Guys still showed up for CL stuff, though.
Kernan Forest Facebook
Kernan Forest HOA has an official Facebook page, as well as an official website. Neither are new or updated. I think I could join the Facebook page, but it would be kind of useless, since the last post is from a month ago (July, 2017) and the one before that is from over two YEARS ago (January, 2015). Not exactly neighborhood communication. And it ends up looking kind of negative, since people tend to use it to report crime. Even if there is relatively little crime in the area, that's still most of the posts. And people asking mostly unanswered questions. While the Brentwood Park Facebook page took over my notifications, making me ignore them, this one seems lacking of participation on the other end.
Fort Caroline Shores NextDoor
Kernan Forest is part of a vast area on NextDoor. I am sure it's set up to create areas based on participation, so more local neighbors need to sign up for a group to be represented as its own subdivision. I waited some time to post anything here, just to gauge the atmosphere. Believing it was fairly safe, I posted once about our son walking or meeting dogs in the area. I got some great responses and made a couple of meetings. But I also offended (or at least got the attention of) some pit bull owners, since I kind of indicated that would not be our preferred breed. While that was not the intent, and they could have ignored me, I understand. I also posted about my quest to understand zoning decisions in Jacksonville. This got a lot more of a response, with some people telling me to go for it and others telling me to deal with it. That's what a community forum is supposed to do, I suppose, but I can see where me continuing to respond to those who tell me I'm wrong will simply waste my time and never really go anywhere. It's easy for people (including me) to post to a forum, but it's a lot more of a big deal to show up at a City Council meeting. And that was the consensus: go to the meetings.
I will mention that there was one post, apparently deleted, that outlined all the reasons one neighbor disliked another. I don't think it named names, but it was a list of grievances. Since a person who dislikes neighbors is probably not on the website, its purpose as an article was to trash the guy and bring other neighbors in on it. While I am sure the concerns were legitmate, I can certainly see why it was removed, too. Even my posting about a gas station being proposed could be seen as negative by some, so I suppose it's kind of tricky deciding what constitutes appropriate neighborhood discussion and what borders on libel.
Overall, I'd say it's better to have the social aspect of the community available. While it might be a challenge for us to agree on all of the issues, at least there's a platform. In general, however, I prefer the platform on my websites, where I write something, it's there for a long time, and it's my opinion that resonates the most, not everyone's. But that's just me; as a writer, I hate to waste too much of my efforts getting hits for the social media websites when I have my own to maintain and promote.