Community Voices

How often do you learn of a new app or platform that has changed how people engage with each other? Like you, I know people who have found a partner on Match, connected with old friends on Facebook, followed a famous person and had them respond to a tweet on Twitter, posted photos and stories on Instagram, bought a house by seeing it on Zillow or Realtor.com first, and found a job through LinkedIn. Yet there’s room for even more applications to add to my phone, figure out how to engage, and determine if they add value to my life and the lives of others.

Where have all the neighbors gone? It used to be that when you wanted to tap into some knowledge your neighbor knew, you would call or knock on their door and have a conversation. You might engage them outside over the back fence or encounter them on a walk.

When you lost a pet, you posted flyers everywhere, knocked on doors and talked to people, and when you wanted to hire somebody to work on your home, you checked out what a neighbor did, went to a storefront, made a few phone calls, checked out Angie’s List and read up or interviewed various contractors for the job you needed done.

I joined the app Nextdoor last July to experience it as many others in my neighborhood do. After time spent on the app, selecting a variety of topics to follow, I’m still trying to determine if it’s something that adds value to the relationship of people in a certain neighborhood. After a year on the platform, I am still a bit confused by its ultimate purpose, though I must say people do engage and I get to peek in on what they are contemplating day-to-day.

Is Nextdoor a new Angie’s List or HomeAdvisor? Looking at many of the posts, it is possible this is what the app was intended to do — connect homeowners to contractors. Is it an answer for lost pets to be found and reunited with loved ones? On some days, you might think this is its purpose, as many posts are about lost pets, and I can appreciate this topic on any social application. Or is NextDoor a place for people to engage on the security and safety of a neighborhood? Possibly. I can also get behind this type of engagement, and this also can be done through multiple social media platforms.

Maybe my ultimate questions for any social media application are: Does an app give me an excuse for not engaging in person? Yes. Does an app keep me from taking a walk or having coffee with a friend and neighbor? Yes. Does an app keep me from building or even starting a real relationship with a friend or neighbor? Also yes.

I enjoy social media, it can add value to my day. It keeps me connected to people both steps and miles away. But for my own sanity, I pledge that social media should not make me less social. I want to be more helpful in my position of living next door to neighbors. I want to go out and look for that lost pet versus commenting about it on a platform. I want to see my neighbors in context of the neighborhood and have real conversations that can solve problems. If that’s what you want, too, let’s connect. I can easily be found ... on social media.

Jessica Lamker has lived in Savage for more than 20 years.

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