Monday Q&A: Social media keeps neighbors ‘talking’

02/09/2014 6:59 PM

02/10/2014 11:40 AM

An e-town crier is giving users throughout Salida and other communities a handy way to share information on lost pets, garage sales, block parties and burglaries.

In less than a year, 432 families in 13 Salida neighborhoods of a few streets each have begun using Nextdoor, a social media site that verifies participants’ addresses before letting them join and helps them keep up on school activities, put out warnings about suspicious characters, share photos of road construction and sell kitchen tables to each other.

“We believe healthier and more engaged neighborhoods create stronger communities,” said Katherine Borges, a Salida Municipal Advisory Council member and Nextdoor coordinator. The site is “very good at filling communication gaps,” she said.

Started in Menlo Park four years ago, Nextdoor has spread to more than 25,000 neighborhoods. It relies on more than $100 million in donations from venture capitalists, although its operators have yet to decide how to go after revenue to ensure the site’s future.

Salida’s Nextdoor groups have used the service to publicize the Salida Town & Country festival, MAC meetings, a map of must-visit Halloween trick-or-treat displays, and to mobilize against being swallowed up by Modesto. Keying off that effort, the nearby Wood Colony farming community established a Nextdoor site in early January and has 32 families signed up so far.

Each neighborhood group is headed by a “lead,” or local organizer taking on administrative duties. Tana Goff fills that role for the Salida Haciendas group near Sisk Elementary School.

How did you get involved in Nextdoor?

I have a friend that was using it and thought it was a good idea.

Has this been good for your family and neighbors?

I think it is a good thing as long as it is used for the neighborhood. When you are frustrated about something and then find out your neighbors are frustrated about the same thing, it makes you feel like you aren’t the only one.

Tell us how the site is used to alert neighbors to crime.

It’s good to know about mailbox break-ins, creepy people lurking and school lockdowns.

Once, late at night, we were winding down, watching TV, and we heard a bunch of sirens. I put out a note (on Nextdoor): “Does anybody know what’s going on?” The next morning, a reply came from a lady saying, “Yeah, my house burned down.” My heart dropped. I said, “What do you need?”

Another time, some people were going door to door selling something and asking a lot of questions like, “Do you know where kids live?” and they were very aggressive. I said, “Wait – this is not cool.” Everyone (on Nextdoor) told them to go away. Two weeks later, they were busted trying to steal something.

One night, the kids and I had just gotten out of the hot tub when we heard sirens and a crash. A car being chased by sheriff’s deputies took out a neighbor’s tree, and two guys jumped out and over the fence into our backyard. I saw shadows, and the dogs went nuts. (The men) jumped over the fence next door, then the next and the next. We put it out in the neighborhood to let everyone know.

What about lost pets?

There have been a few. Also, a neighbor’s security camera got pictures of someone stealing Chihauhuas from the home next door. She (used Nextdoor to) let everyone know who they were. It’s important to be aware of who’s in your neighborhood.

Please describe other uses.

It’s better than Craigslist because you get stuff cheaper and faster from your neighbors. It’s totally different when it’s someone down the street.

A neighbor and I started a yard sale together. We put it (on Nextdoor) and invited everyone on the street. Other yard sales started popping up, so we took addresses, and when people would stop by ours, we would send them on to the next one and it was like a communitywide yard sale.

When my fifth-grader at Sisk School and the class beat the teachers for the first time ever in volleyball, I posted them jumping for joy with victory.

Also, we’re starting a 4-H Club, and it’s nice to have a way to connect with other parents who may be interested.

Strange posts sometimes pop up on social media, right?

It’s strange when people get crazy with their opinions and show no respect for other people’s opinions. It isn’t Facebook, and neighbors should show respect. People need to be nice to each other. As “lead” (Nextdoor contact), if somebody flags a post as inappropriate, I can remove it.

How do you cut down on personal attacks?

Stick up for the people getting attacked, just as you would step in if two people were going at it on the street.

How long have you lived in the neighborhood?

We’ve been here since summer 2010. We decided to stay and raise our family here. I work in commercial real estate and specialize in business startup and expansion. It’s a great location.

Do you use the site to keep up on other Salida neighborhoods?

I always watch to see what’s going on. It’s nice to know about graffiti, crime or if someone needs help.

Would you recommend this service to other towns and cities?

Absolutely. I always wonder if we had a catastrophe like in Louisiana or New Jersey, how we would communicate. It would be great to see people check in and say, “Help!” or “We are OK.”

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