Greetings Beestonites, I hope you are all managing to pack in a few last minute events before the end of summer! I for one have been preparing for some down time before the autumn events rush.

Needless to say, just because I wasn’t socialising outwardly, didn’t mean that there hasn’t been some worthwhile social activity going on. I decided to mingle in cyberspace and i found online social network called Nextdoor. The site originated in the USA and to date Nextdoor is available in 50% of the neighbourhoods within the UK. Beeston happens to be one of them.

It is clear this social media platform is gaining momentum. Its mission statement to connect people in real-time, that live nearby, is a massive plus point.

I, like many other young professionals, have had to live in the land of fixed term contracts and as such, have been granted a new address almost every other year. Facebook is loaded with friends (BIG emphasis on the inverted comma’s there) from various locations and life chapters from far and wide. It is a nice platform to say hi to distant acquaintances but I realised that since moving back to the Rylands two years ago, I didn’t actually know that many people in the area anymore. I was feeling physically and psychologically exhausted with travelling around to different cities to visit people all the time. I decided to give this media platform a go in the hope that I would be able to connect to more people nearby and get to know my local area a bit better. I know I want to become more integrated into my local area and I don’t think I am alone.

Frequent relocations are the type of social situation that leads to the fragmentation of communities. As people become more transient, they become more isolated and stressed. I know myself it is hard to feel integrated, and the exhaustion that sets in from frequent moves is also a factor that limits initiation of meaningful social contact.  Research conducted at the University of Birmingham and other reputable establishments have demonstrated the importance of community factors within the neighbourhood. Recently the NHS has recognised loneliness as a legitimate public health problem, and it’s on the increase. The Issue of loneliness was perceived to be limited to elder populations, however published statistics demonstrate that increasing numbers of younger people are feeling isolated.

After registering with the site, you are then connected with people living within your area. This is just like any other social media platform, except it works on a local level, within your specific neighbourhood. You can do anything from; gifting free stuff (good for gardeners as a lot of plants have been exchanged), buying and selling, asking for advice or recommendations on local tradespeople, places to do/ source things, promoting local events, finding out who the local Avon lady is, and seeking advice on practical home matters.

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One of the main differences between this and other social media sites is that this site is more about getting things done, as opposed to random acts of self-expression. Moderators are on hand to remove any post that is defamatory or inappropriate, rendering this a safe and supportive space to operate online. Unlike other apps, if you sign up to something new, your contact list isn’t imported and automatically available. If you know someone that lives nearby you need to invite them to join (if they aren’t already on the website). You can invite people by a direct invitation online, or you can have a postcard sent to them via the post, free of charge. The low-fi method of expanding the network is straight forwards and quite charming.

You can manage your privacy settings so that you can have a presence on the site without personal info such as; full address, phone number etc. being available for all to see. You can also choose to put a picture up if you fancy but this isn’t mandatory. All the other features of a regular social media site are available. There are; noticeboards for various areas of interest, a private message function, a notifications function and a categories tab in which communications can be assigned based on their topic.

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I found that using this site, did actually lead to some productive real-life interactions. I met a gentleman that was gifting some free plants, and I went to meet him and his wife. I was expecting a quick pop in, pop out type scenario but instead I spent a good portion of the afternoon in their back-yard amassing as much gardening advice as I could. I have also used the site to shift some free stuff that I had to offer and also posted requests for advice on tradespeople.

One upcoming campaign is the “Share a Cuppa” campaign. This is aimed at encouraging neighbours and members of the local community to take the first step and go for a cup of tea with their neighbours. I for one will be taking part in this campaign once it is launched. I may even write about my experience here. Watch this space people!!!

The Nextdoor social media app is free of charge to use and is available at www.nextdoor.co.uk .There is also an app based version of the platform for Android and iPhone users which can be downloaded from the ‘Play Store’.

DB