Nowadays, connecting with your neighbors can feel more difficult than ever. Many people don’t know their neighbors at all. Or they only say hi to them when they happen to be outside at the same time. When you feel so disconnected from the people who live right next door, you may not have the comforting sense of community that can come from really knowing each other.
If you’re not able to connect in person, it makes sense to try and use technology to start connecting instead. Neighborhood apps like Nextdoor or Neighbors can help to bring communities together. But there also could be some downsides.
Here are what we see as the pros and cons of neighbor apps:
The Pros of Neighbor Apps
Neighbor apps can be incredibly helpful for a number of reasons. They allow you to connect to those near you, and help you feel like you live in a close-knit community.
They Make It Easy to Connect
The most obvious benefit of neighbor apps is that you can connect with others using them. Some people have a hard time getting out of the house, or they aren’t often home when their neighbors are home. When you find yourself in that situation, it’s easy to feel disconnected. A neighborhood app can help you connect and communicate with those around you in a virtual way, at times that are more convenient to you and your schedule.
They Make Neighborhoods Feel Safer
In addition to community announcements, meet-ups and the like, a neighbor app is also great as a kind of virtual neighborhood watch. All you have to do is set up your app to get real-time crime and safety alerts from those within your vicinity.
It’s Easy to Introduce Yourself
If you never really see your neighbors, introducing yourself can feel awkward. Most people don’t want to knock on their neighbors’ doors out of the blue. Even if you’re that bold, finding something to talk about right away can be hard. Building a friendship can be difficult if you only see someone in passing. With a neighbor app, you just have to log in and start talking to those around you.
You Can Turn an Online Friendship into an Offline One
Many online friendships never become offline ones. The fact that people can connect from different parts of the country–or even the world–using the internet is amazing. But you will likely never actually meet those people who are far away. However, friends made on a neighborhood app are literally just next door!
The Cons of Neighbor Apps
Sadly, not everything is always roses and butterflies in the neighborhood. As such, there are some definite downsides to neighbor apps.
Things Can Get Nasty
When you’re behind a screen, it’s easier to say things that you’d never say to someone’s face. Cyberbullying is a big problem in the technology age, and some people enjoy saying vitriolic things to others, even if those people live just down the street. If online feuds turn to offline feuds, there’s definitely potential for disaster.
Rural Neighborhoods Are Less Likely to Have Options
There may be plenty of options for people who live in large cities. But if you live in a small town, it’ll be more difficult to find other people using these neighbor apps. Even if you live in a large city, you may find that there’s no one on your street using these apps.
You Have to Watch Out for Shady Individuals
Some apps require that you verify your address before you’re allowed to post. However, that doesn’t mean you have to verify your actual identity. Someone could use a fake name, spoof an address with shady online tactics, or use other workarounds to become a completely different person online. Then, that person can scam, harass, or even coerce you into meeting in person. If you want to reduce your risk of being catfished on a neighbor app, use a people search engine to research the person reaching out to you.
You can perform a criminal records search on just about anyone with just a few clicks. When someone who ostensibly lives just a few blocks away asks to meet up, you may quickly determine whether he or she has a violent history that you should worry about. Instead of blindly putting your faith in an app, you may be able to get hard evidence about the type of person you’re about to meet.
Becoming part of a community is always good. Humans need socialization to feel fulfilled, and it’s great to get to know your neighbors.
Neighbor apps can definitely help when it comes to connecting. But of course, there’s a potential dark side. If you want to make sure you’re getting all the benefits while avoiding most of the drawbacks, be sure to do your research and verify your neighbors’ identities. That way, you can try to stay safe in your neighborhood and connect with others virtually, as well as in the real world.
Image attribution: Photo by VarDaan – stock.adobe.com