Features Magazine Volume 69, Issue 1

The Controversy of Nextdoor: Harmful or Helpful?

By Grace Gonsalves and Molly Scanlon

Last month, a Las Lomas alumnus made a controversial post on Nextdoor involving a Las Lomas student and their alleged perpetration of a crime. They illegally included the name of the minor student and after one hour and many angry comments, Nextdoor took it down and the user  reposted it without the name. Nextdoor was able to take it down because according to their guidelines, violating someone’s privacy is prohibited. The facts of the crime are certain, however the allegation that this Las Lomas student committed the crime is uncertain. This is the controversial aspect of the post. The student mentioned was verbally harassed through Nextdoor, and students who commented on the post also received public backlash. Senior Graham Rossi said, “People…hide behind their keyboard and type whatever they want,” which counselor Mrs. Lewis-Hampton adds to by saying “I think people do waste a lot of energy…getting wrapped up in some of that stuff.” 

The overall intent of the program is to be a helpful mode of communication between neighbors. A computer program sorts users into a neighborhood chatstring based on their home address, and there are different chatstrings such as business, sales, real estate, crime, etc. But do targeting posts outweigh the helpful aspects of the app?

More Las Lomas students came forward with stories where they had been the subject of verbally abusive comments. An anonymous source said, “They described [my] car and the street it was on [when it was] one mile above the speed limit.” Another student shared, “A few years ago, a mountain lion came into my yard and my mom posted about it and we showed a picture. People responded that it was a dog.” Reporting posts is the only restriction preventing people from misusing the website. Even though violating personal privacy is against the community guidelines, posting photos without people’s permission is not. As a result, people post pictures of suspicious looking persons in their neighborhood who may never know that they appeared on the app. It is legal to post photos of someone in a public space, but is it ethical to post a picture of someone without their consent, or furthermore, harass them on the site? Junior Miles Hainer says,“that probably crosses a line.” 

This neighborhood app also houses (pun intended) helpful posts as well. The general uses of the app are innocent ones such as selling used items, offering babysitting services, or suggesting gardeners and painters. Junior Miles Hainer says, “I feel like [it’s]…helpful because you kind of know what’s going on around you, if it’s construction or crime.” Without the help of Nextdoor, some parents could get stuck in construction traffic, and some people would never know their packages were being stolen while they were at work. Las Lomas students have also benefited, Senior Kirsten Hexemer said, “I once got a bunch of free records and a record holder from someone on Nextdoor. It really made my day.” 

The question of whether or not Nextdoor is overall helpful or harmful is left up to interpretation and opinions will change from person to person (as shown in the statistics below).