Yesterday afternoon I spent an hour or so at one of my many book groups. A group of guys and gals meet once a month in the mid-afternoon at our local independent coffee shop to discuss and socialize. Now, I belong to three books groups. What's unique about this one is that I met all the people in the group online.
I try and put a limit on my technology time. We live in the real world after all, and it can be more easy than we know to go down the rabbit hole that is Pinterest or waste time elsewhere. On the other hand, the Internet is a wonderful way to make connections-and not just those that are far away. While I knew all this, making a couple moves in a few years has really brought this home to me-in spades.
Every so often, I explore the net looking for local things to do. I check out the newspaper online, the Visit Denver site and more, making a list of craft fairs, festivals, Christmas markets , classes, and day trips. One time, about a year ago, I was doing one of these searches, and something new popped into my feed.......a link to the Next Door website.
Now, some of my readers probably knew about Next Door even before it was a twinkle in my eye, but for me this was a fairly new thing, and I really had no idea what it was. For those folks like me, Next Door is a social network type website that I allows you to communicate and chat with your neighbors-about all kinds of things.
It also allows you to keep your privacy, and keep trolls away. When I joined Next Door, someone vetted me and my address to show that I in fact, lived in the section of Littleton known as East Heritage. Once vetted, I introduced myself-and shared as much or little as I chose. Next Door operates as small communities in larger communities. So while my larger Next Door group is Littleton, there are many sub neighborhoods within the site. I can choose to communicate just with my immediate neighborhood, or with the greater suburban group.
If you had asked me, I would have said a website like this was overkill. I would have been wrong. By socializing and talking on Next Door, I was able to instigate a daytime crafting group (surprise), join another book group, be invited to a monthly card group, find out about an artists co-op (not my thing), and learn that we actually have a small winery in our our neighborhood.
And socialization is not the only benefit of Next Door (or other social media neighbor apps or websites). The city sends out instant, as it happens info on weather and traffic each day. A fellow in the neighborhood notices strangers in a white van driving down the street slowly (possibly scoping out cars). The local high school hosts a statewide cross country meet once a year, and lets us know that the streets will be blocked on this day. A small business shares that it needs part time help. A member of my craft group has grandchildren visiting and needs to borrow booster seats.......the list goes on.
As with anything neighborhood related, there can be downsides as well. One party is trying to get a petition to avoid the new Alzheimer's care facility going in a half mile away, another is wondering if a new seven eleven and gas station coming on the corner will bring in a "bad element". But these situations are few and far between.
Meeting new friends and having people to talk to is an issue in retirement, especially for those of us who relocate, relied on our jobs for socialization, or are socially shy. Traditional things like Facebook can certainly help, and I belong to a variety of Facebook groups, including one for serger users, one for quilters, and more.
But a website like Next Door gives us a chance to meet neighbors in this busy age of working and volunteering and two income couples and commuting and more. By first starting out just chatting and and visiting with folks in my neighborhood, I have been able to move to true socialization, as well as knowing my neighborhood, it's history and it's pluses and minuses (every place has negatives, after all) from those who know my neighborhood the best.
Next Door is only one way to socialize and know neighbors online. I also belong to a closed facebook group known as "Word of Mouth Littleton" where folks share recommendations and needs, as well as a neighborhood yard sale group on social media.
The bottom line is that technology and the internet are great tools in making friends, meeting new people and knowing your neighbors. There are certainly many ways to do that, but if you have a Next Door group in your area, I encourage you to check it out. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
And so it goes this Friday in retirement.