In classic episodes of game show “Let’s Make a Deal“, Monty Hall lets participants choose from among three doors, with the expectation that something prize-worthy waits behind one. But what if there are disappointing gag-gifts behind all of them? The answer kind of explains my abandoning social network Nextdoor for the second—and surely—last time.
I quit Nextdoor in mid-October last year after joining in August 2017. Primary reason: Interaction turned negative my relatively positive attitudes about the neighborhood. But, about five months ago, I reactivated my account after kitties Laramie and Lupe were abandoned; I worked with other concerned residents and a real estate agent seeking to get the animals safely removed before the property was sold. Nextdoor facilitated communication. Rescue House put the bonded pair into a foster home, and as I write they’re still waiting to be adopted.
Fear and distrust are evident everywhere in this part of San Diego, and I am convinced that Nextdoor is one of the major wedges driving apart people—even though the social network is meant to bring folks together. In my exit-analysis in October 2018, I called out as destructive the “amount of hit-and-run accidents, package thefts, and other so-called crimes or problems amplified by hundreds of virtual megaphones…The number of posts complaining and accusing of wrongdoings—and the crazy responses that follow—presenting one-sided tellings of events as fact, while being unverified. Similarly, too many posts or replies are unneighborly”. During my 2019 return, I also commonly see posted photos and videos identifying strangers as potential criminals or villains. Fearmongering is rampant.
If there is a surveillance state, I live there—but not under the eyes of government watchers but the frightened residents of a fairly well-to-do neighborhood where the crime-rate is relatively low. Fear spreads with surveillance photos and videos, and with it so increases the number of residences with security cams. I have a unique awareness about their growing presence: During daily walks of 6 kilometers or more—mostly around the neighborhood—I see more and more cams placed around doors, entrances, and fences.
Surely Nextdoor can’t be solely blamed for the growing fear and distrust that I see. But as a seasoned journalist, and as such keen observer of human nature, I recognize how quickly people imitate or adopt others’ behavior. Idiom “Keeping up with the Joneses” is much more than about materialism and wealth. Attitudes are part of the comparative equation, too. Stated another way: Think mob mentality and how easily fear of someone, something else, or some other group spreads.
My wife wonders when I will see my likeness spread across the social network—from shooting photos for my “Cats of University Heights” series. Her concern is shared. No longer do I feel safe, because of the increasing number of security cameras. Social sharing turns surveillance photos and videos into lethal bullets. Bang. Bang. Character assassination by insinuation and accusation.
Today, I posted the 279th profile in my kitty series, since its start in October 2016. Last night, on a walk, I spotted five different cats—two not seen or featured before—and didn’t photograph any, despite Leica Q being with me. My angst and caution grows, and the reason is much bigger than surveillance: The aforementioned darkened, mob mood. Where once most neighbors welcomed my interest in their pets, increasingly residents are suspicious of any one not immediately recognized.
Nextdoor may not be the only thing that I quit. My plan had been to bring “Cats of University Heights” to a natural closure at 300 profiles or its third-year anniversary, whichever would come first. But the end may arrive sooner. Perhaps, after a couple weeks relief from the Nextdoor FUD factory (e.g. fear, uncertainty, and doubt), maybe I will feel more confident to push on as planned. Or maybe not.