When I first bought my home in Palm Springs you can imagine my excitement at receiving an email inviting me to get local updates on my very own “Movie Colony East” neighborhood.
The web site was Nextdoor.com and I signed up and put up my first post. “Hi, I’m Manny and I look forward to meeting all my new neighbors!” So many “thumb’s ups” and “hello’s”; I felt so welcome.
Back then I was still a “weekender,” commuting back and forth to Los Angeles. I felt at ease while away as I kept apprised on my little hamlet with updates on things like crime, coyote-spottings and a plethora of lost and found pets.
For the unknowing, Nextdoor.com defines itself as “the neighborhood hub for trusted connections and the exchange of helpful information, goods, and services.”
What I have since learned is that it can also be a forum for caustic, over-bearing, anger-filled personalities – which can be quite entertaining if you’re in the right frame of mind for that sort of thing.
I discovered the dark side of Nextdoor.com when I moved here permanently. At first everyone seemed so very nice and civil and helpful and made me feel oh-so-welcome in the place I chose as my retirement home. One post even saved my Tecoma Yellow Belles from a horrible skeleton moth invasion (heck I didn’t even know I had a Tecoma Belle before seeing it on Nextdoor).
Then, the pandemic hit.
It was as though a seismic shift happened overnight – imagine the magic kingdom turning into nightmare on elm street.
Suddenly, comments were littered with pejoratives such as “idiot,” “fool” and “I’ll squash you.”
Really? Where did all the civility go?
Suddenly Nextdoor felt uncomfortable. At one point, I responded to a post and received a response: “Well, Manny Padilla, you’re just a plain, stupid idiot.”
Huh? I checked to see who wrote the comment as I figured it must be someone I knew. I thought a total stranger who knew absolutely nothing about me couldn’t possibly call me a stupid idiot. It usually takes a while to figure that out about me.
But, then, there it was, plain as day. A total stranger had indeed called me a stupid idiot.
I wanted to lash out (I’ll show them who’s an idiot!), but after taking a few deep breaths, decided to take the high road.
“Dear XX, there really is no need to call a total stranger a ‘stupid idiot.’ I would hope we’re all more civil than that.”
I must have got the person where he/she lived, as they sent back an apology.
I found myself one day walking through the supermarket and wondering: “Could that be the man who called me an idiot?” No, he seems too nice. I continued, “Could that be the lady who posted something saying they’d die before wearing a mask as they aren’t a sheep.” No, she’s too old and frail-looking.
From then on, I’ve learned to be more cautious about my questions and responses. This has been trickier as it seems every post lately ends up taking a political slant.
For example, a recent discussion on a proposed Palm Springs disposal fee increase. Within a few comments on the thread, responses started drifting to “Whatever is costing us more money, I think we all know who is responsible…” (Insert subsequent banter here.)
Huh? I knew the president had power, but I didn’t know he was powerful enough to increase rates on our local trash pick-up.
We also have a ton of posts on local crime. If you’re new to Nextdoor.com, you might think we have a crime happening every second here (which isn’t the case, I check the stats). Yet, there it is, once again, plain for all to see: “Crime is out of control and the city does nothing and it’s because of who we have as elected officials – especially in Washington!”
And then, that topic and thread, like so many others before it, goes down the worm hole.
Another popular theme is COVID. Yes, we’re talking masks and vaccines.
There have been a few posts about “XX supermarket isn’t enforcing mask protocols, boycott it!” or “They didn’t ask for my vaccine card at XX restaurant – nobody go there. They’re killing people!!!!”
O.k., I exaggerate, but some of the posts and responses are akin to that. Seriously.
Yes, I understand how serious COVID is (lest I be called a stupid idiot again), but I do understand that at this point in the game, everyone knows what’s at stake and what the rules are. I find it hard to try to go after local businesses over something that truly is out of their control. So I refuse to jump on that band wagon.
As you can see, posting on Nextdoor.com these days can be a bit of a minefield. As mentioned, I’ve learned to tread lightly.
However, every week or so, I’ll see a post which gives me hope anew. “Hi, I’m XX, I just moved here and look forward to meeting all my new neighbors.”
Be careful what you wish for…
And with that, I end this as “Poolside From PS.”