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Vox Populi

I’ve recently discovered nextdoor.com, a social media platform similar to Facebook, though smaller and more focused on local concerns.  Each neighborhood in my town has their own nextdoor group, comprised of nearby households and businesses.  Every third post is an advertisement; interspersed among these are notices of lost dogs and cats, used items for sale, complaints about city council, and alerts about suspicious activity in the neighborhood. 

It is all vox populi, mostly uncluttered by claims of expertise or authoritativeness, whether legitimate or feigned.  Here is what was in my newsfeed this morning:

  1. From the state department of health and human services, an update on the safety of Covid-19 vaccines for women who are pregnant or nursing.  Also, an announcement that a version of the vaccine is now recommended for children ages 5-11.
  2. Two free wooden garden frames are available to anyone who needs them.
  3. The big ten championship banner was raised at a nearby sports arena.
  4. Why is there a helicopter circling over the intersection of T—Road and M—Road?  Are they looking for someone?
  5. Thank you to the construction workers who recently dropped what they were doing and rushed over to help break up a dogfight.
  6. This morning there will be a special service at a local university honoring all veterans.
  7. The women’s university basketball team opens the season next Tuesday night.
  8. Does anyone know what the “explosions” are that occurred southeast of town earlier this evening and again around 10:00 pm?
  9. Our parent teacher organization will be discussing “equitable PTO funding” at the end of this month.  “Did you know that the highest and lowest per student elementary PTO spending vary by a factor of five?”
  10. Next week there will be a “warrant resolution, expungement and eviction prevention event” in the next town over.  The event is entitled “Warrant Resolution Day.”

Occasionally there are substantive discussions of broader issues.  I recently participated in a debate about “confirmation bias”.  This is the tendency we all have to seek out data that support our points of view, while discarding any facts—true or “alternative”—that challenge our opinions.  (The original post was a response to a story featured on NPR.) 

Confirmation bias is a big deal right now as we approach the 2022 and 2024 elections.  The country is already busy slicing open old wounds and preparing to revive our culture wars and political competitions.  Confirmation bias is currently aggravated by the absence of a common source of authoritative information, a shared understanding of reality. Science–but whose science? 

News and social media have served as catalysts for this predicament.  They have weaponized “intersectionality” and sorted us all into categories by race, gender, class, ethnicity, locale, religion, political orientation, and so forth.  This is a boon to partisans who rely on divisiveness as a means to seek power.  It is also driven by marketers who seek ever more efficient ways to target consumers who will purchase their products, services, and world views.  Two halves of the same coin.

However, nextdoor is different from Facebook, Twitter and other platforms in important ways.  Anonymity and distance are considerably reduced.  Because you are interacting with neighbors and people in your home community, it’s risky business to troll someone who may live two doors down, or the next street over.  As a result, dialogue so far is markedly less snarky and combative than what is seen on the bigger platforms.  The civility of nextdoor is reassuring in these troubled times.

In earlier posts I described how social media platforms help create and sustain egregoric phenomena.  It’s too early to tell whether nextdoor can support the kind of entities described previously.  The platform seems to be too small and diffuse to generate the kind of energy and focus that leads to the formation of egregores, at least of the kind that shamble among the traffic on Twitter and Facebook. 

In my town, nextdoor currently hosts 936 households, of which 70% have established accounts on the platform.  (We are exhorted to invite additional neighbors.)  Is there a critical mass of social media interaction needed in order to produce egregoric phenomena? 

Insofar as large organizations and institutions generate thought forms that oppose the voice—and will—of the people, it may be that nextdoor is our local hedge against an out of control federal government or the tyranny of globalists—but I repeat myself.  Or perhaps it will eventually become their servant.  I hope not.

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Published by Sean Eaton

If you have arrived here, you may share my interest in horror, religion, dream psychology and the literature of the fantastic. This blog is a continuation of earlier work I did at The R'lyeh Tribune. I hope you will find something useful and edifying. Comments and suggestions are appreciated.

2 thoughts on “Vox Populi

  1. Your Nextdoor news sounds a lot like ours, but you’re missing black bear, bobcat, and the occasional cougar sighting. 🙂 There are people on my neighborhood Nextdoor that still try to treat it like Facebook. To them it is all the same. I ignore the political posts, but if I know the people making posts like that, I endeavor even more to completely avoid them as much as possible.

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    1. I enjoy a good political debate, however when I went to our local “politics” group on Nextdoor, there was nothing there. Maybe a post a month ago about water quality. This surprised me because we are a university town. But I think people are tired of all the rancor and would just like to see something constructive accomplished. (In my state, this would be infrastructure.)

      Liked by 1 person

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