Online Social Networks and the Neighborhood Renaissance

A new online social network wants to bring neighborhoods together in ways that may agree with how people want to know their neighbors, i.e. semi-anonymously and at their convenience. 

What's the Latest Development?

A new social network wants you to get to know your neighbors, with hopes of strengthening communities across the country. The site is called Nextdoor and it offers house-by-house maps to which individuals and families can attach their names (or not) as well as "a forum for posting items of general interest; classified listings for buying, selling or giving away things; and a database for neighbor-recommended local services." The service is currently free and carries no advertising, though the company wants to generate support for local businesses by allowing them to post special deals for neighborhood residents. 

What's the Big Idea?

An awkward encounter with a neighbor is nothing new. But the strange feeling of a silent elevator ride or quick hallway run-in is not bad. In fact, the urban sociologist Louis Wirth once said that having 'anonymous' and 'superficial' relationships was essential to city living. Might neighborhood-based social networks be the perfect medium to build community cohesion without obligating strangers to get to know each other on intimate levels? Although we may have forgotten, Facebook's original purpose was to serve a community defined by real-life proximity--the neighborhood, if you will, inside Harvard University.

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