I recently became the number one post on Nextdoor.
I’ll sign autographs for anyone who wants one.
If anyone is unfamiliar with Nextdoor, it’s basically a social media app for your neighborhood with the slightest amount of accountability. You have to put a name (it doesn’t have to be your real one). You have to be confirmed that you live in a certain area (I’m sure there’s easy work arounds for this one). And you can usually only see posts and information in certain areas, to keep it local (again…I’m sure with some savvy clicking this doesn’t have to always be the case).
It is a wild west of social interaction. Some people post pictures just to share. Some people post questions that could be easily Googled. Some people complain about menial or major happenings. Some people write helpful posts about missing or found pets. Others write depressing posts about their dead or dying pets. Some people just want to rant or be heard. Others scream friendly-yet-empty greetings into the void.
I’m obsessed with it in the same way I’m obsessed with French Silk Chocolate Mousse pie. I know I can’t control myself and that it has adverse reactions. But once in a while it’s the best thing in the world to indulge in.
For a little primer and a lot of entertainment, check out the Best of Nextdoor on Twitter.
My story of Nextdoor fame begins humbly enough, with a simply Ring video of a hard-to-describe animal caught in our driveway in the wee hours of the morning.
My post said (something along the lines of) “Let’s play a game: Guess this animal!”
Tons of people responded. Like almost 200 or so in a day…which, on Nextdoor, is basically viral.
What’s funny to me is how many people made this clearly joke game suddenly an aggressive way of finding critiques, either with the other people who responded or with my own video. There were accusations and criticism that the video wasn’t long enough. Or it was too blurry. Or it was too far away. There were people convinced it was one animal and angry that other people were saying it was another. It was a pretty even split between people just having a good time (as intended) or people getting incredibly invested and very quickly angry at the nature of the post.
It was a goofy post about a weird-looking animal. And yet…vitriol from some, and neighbor to neighbor anger from others.
Even with the seeming accountability of the app, this post to me encapsulated so much of what is wrong with communication apps and all anonymous internet interactions.
It’s that we lose sight of each other’s humanity.
And maybe it’s especially intense right now because many of us have been holed up in our homes without too much outside human influence with only the digital creations of tech giants who make money off of our attention (and we give more of it when we’re fired up, especially when we’re scared or angry). Maybe the fact that we don’t actively have to interact with people who disagree with us because we can always find people who agree with us allows our ego to feel even more validated to scream loudly into our echo chambers and dehumanize those who might disagree based on their own just-as-valid life experiences. Maybe it’s a whole number of factors, seen and unseen, that have led us to this point. I don’t know.
But I do know that I’m tired of it. It’s draining. For all of us. It’s not our true human nature. We both survive and thrive largely because we’re kind to each other.
Yet as we feel and get more detached from our communities, we feel more isolated from both mother nature and our true nature.
In short, we’re sad little selfish assholes. And free social media services who promise to help keep you connected and validate your human experience profit from our assholery, our narcissism, and our depression.
So maybe we call them out. And we change our behavior. We get offline and we look other humans in the face. We let go of our need to be right and once again engaged our innate curiosity about others, recognizing elements of our own selves in them. We start remembering that we are actually a part of this earth, and not parasites who can drain it of its natural resources supposedly without repercussions.
We slow down. We calm down. We change our pace and think outside of the box. That way goofy posts meant to be jokes don’t turn into a soapbox where people call each other stupid.
And to preemptively answer everyone’s burning question: The animal has been confirmed as a beaversquirrelracoonfluffyfatcat. You’re welcome.