Imagine a friendly app where neighbors could check in on each other, offer sugar and eggs, and talk about pertinent area issues. Perhaps that was the original intent of Nextdoor, the hyperlocal social networking platform, but Rick Reilly, writing for the Washington Post, says it's turned into something else entirely, bringing us back to the "bad old days" of when "you could've been one of Mao Zedong's millions of neighborhood snitches." Reilly notes that the app has instead morphed into a cauldron of paranoia and suspicion, where users "log in and start profiling everyone on [the] block" and make petty complaints, like a vegan couple complaining about the smells from someone else's meat-filled barbecue. Reilly himself has tried to "swim against this madness" by pushing back in the app against some of the manufactured hysteria, only to be told by others to "butt out."
Reilly doesn't think the app is a total waste, writing that it's "great for reporting lost pets, finding a good plumber, and issuing alerts about doorbell-ringing, nap-ruining Jehovah's Witnesses." And Nextdoor isn't the only app Reilly takes issue with, noting that Facebook and WhatsApp have also become gathering spots for "aspiring vigilantes." However, Nextdoor has become "way out of hand," he notes. "The opportunity to play Paul Blart mall cop brings out the worst in people, and their worst can make the perfectly innocent feel persecuted, unwelcome, and angry." He adds: "And way too often, those innocents are people of color." Ultimately, he notes, "the person on your block you should fear the most is not the guy in the hoodie, it's the guy at the keyboard." Read Reilly's piece in full here. (More Nextdoor stories.)