Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

I am pretty sure that if one were to look at social media, you would assume humanity itself is the one with a life-threatening virus. Let’s define humanity a la Merriam Webster:

Compassionate, sympathetic, or generous behavior or disposition—the quality or state of being humane; the quality or state of being human; the totality of human beings—the human race. 

My perception of things is nothing new, and honestly, I do spend some of my precious time viewing comments from those who angrily express their opposing views. It’s a comedy, shit-show as far as I’m concerned. This is just my humble opinion, but I am confident I’m not alone. With more people stuck in their house with the stay-home order, people seem to have more time to peruse the internet. The effects of feeling cooped up are rearing their ugly head on even the most innocent of posts.

I expect such things from Facebook and Twitter as I have seen this behavior for years. What has surprised me most is the people on the Nextdoor social media site. 

“Nextdoor is the neighborhood hub for trusted connections and the exchange of helpful information, goods, and services. We believe that by bringing neighbors together, we can cultivate a kinder world where everyone has a neighborhood they can rely on. Building connections in the real world is a universal human need. That truth, and the reality that neighborhoods are one of the most important and useful communities in our lives, have been a guiding principle for Nextdoor since the beginning.”

I have been a “member” of Nextdoor since 2017. It is broken down into neighborhoods, and expands out even further. However, I can post something solely for immediate neighbors in my condo community, about 250 of the 370 who have created an account. One of the key elements has normally been to be respectful and avoid those topics that create friction: politics, religion, and sexual content.  We have been a light-hearted, helpful group with the occasional frustrations posted—but, they are more often than not extremely respectful.

With what our world is facing today, more people have become hostile, accusatory, dictatorial, and for lack of a better word, bullies. There is name-calling of a degree that even I am amazed by—remind you that I have seen the “best” on Facebook, Twitter, and even Instagram. There is a boat-load of misinformation being posted, causing panic and anger. I’m even seeing comments that are clearly to incite even the most gentle of people. 

Whatever happened to scrolling on by? I’m just kidding, people can’t help themselves. I honestly don’t bother to comment when things get heated, now or before. In the end, what good would it do? I’m not going to change anyone’s mind, nor is there some prize at the end that makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something. Even the most innocent of comments will have people turn on you anyway. 

I just thought I wouldn’t see it on the Nextdoor site as we know these people—they are literally our next door neighbors! There’s no hiding behind a screen, keeping anonymity because you’re berating the person you used to smile and wave to as you left for work each morning. Bob across the street will avoid coming outside until you’ve driven off now because you called his wife an ignorant, bleeding-heart liberal and adding, “It makes your whole argument even dumber than you.”  Sorry, you’ll have to move now because all of your neighbors hate you…and oh, you’re an asshat.

The posts have gone from “Help me find my cat, Peepers” and “Can you recommend a good lawn company” to “There are terrorists in our neighborhood”—referring to a group of people playing soccer in a local park, ignoring the less-than-ten-in-a-group rule. Never you mind that even though the social-distance rule is being broken, they’re probably your neighbor’s kids. There are ways to protest the activity without being a jerk.

The scary part is that this really is just the beginning of the pandemic for the States and I’m thinking we’re going to see some intense Mad-Max insanity on our social media sites. It’s easy to get angry and lash out with our keyboard. It’s not easy to take those words back from cyber-space, or to look at old Mrs. Willoughby in the face who lives three houses down after you called her a communist.  If we all remember that we are in the same boat, then perhaps we’ll get through this unscathed. Keep your wits about you, neighbors.