First came the sirens, then a line-up of police cars, lights flashing. Next, an ambulance.

“Something just happened at the Walgreens on the corner of Centennial and Flying W. Ranch Rd.,” Dorcas C. wrote on the popular social media app, Nextdoor. “Keep away.”

What “happened” turned out to be a murder inside a Walgreens’ drug store, a shocking development in an otherwise safe neighborhood. A man suspected of killing a fellow employee was later arrested just less than 100 miles away near the town of Walsenburg, Colo. As of this writing, the victim’s name has not been released – nor have any specific details been shared about the incident.

This is all went down this past Saturday night in the northwest section of Colorado Springs. I was especially interested because it’s just around the corner from our family’s home.

Although police have been tight-lipped about the tragedy, details are readily available on the Nextdoor app. How reliable is the information? It’s impossible to know for sure. After all, it is social media.

According to media reports, the California-based site representing 285,000 neighborhoods in 11 countries boasts that 1 in 3 U.S. households use the app.

Do you?

“By bringing neighbors and organizations together, we cultivate a kinder world where everyone has a neighborhood they can rely on,” we read on the site’s home page.

If only.

Like many, I use Nextdoor quite a bit – to find out what’s going on in our area, pay a compliment to an unknown neighbor, learn the latest on a new development, or get the low down on why the local police have descended upon our local drug store.

The site is extremely convenient and helpful – and also somewhat depressing.

It doesn’t take long for many of the seemingly innocent discussions to deteriorate on the site. Things can escalate quickly. This past Sunday, as neighbors started to share details about what they heard about the murder at Walgreens, accusations and concern for the victim and their family began to heat up.

“The details of what happened to the victim shouldn’t concern the neighbor[hood] when they already apprehended the suspect,” wrote Sabrina. “Shameful.”

“Shame on you, Sabrina,” replied the poster.

And so it goes.

Earlier this year, our boys recovered a kite on a neighbor’s lawn. We later discovered it belonged to an older man who was flying it at a nearby park. He came to retrieve it, gave our boys some little trinkets as a reward, but wouldn’t make eye contact with my wife. A little cautious about grown men who fly kites alone and who approach kids, I asked on Nextdoor if anyone knew him. I was virtually shouted down by someone for judging the gentleman. Turns out he was just a man who likes flying kites, but what parent wouldn’t want to make sure?

There’s no question social media apps link us like nothing before. But they also provide a degree of anonymity that can bring out aggressive and even rude behavior. After all, many people are more willing to insult someone online rather than confront or engage them face to face.

For Christians, especially, Nextdoor can be a wonderful resource to quietly minister, encourage and fellowship with our neighbors. It can represent the very best social media has to offer.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you,” wrote the apostle Paul (Eph. 4:32). This is a helpful counsel anytime, anywhere – but certainly on social media – and especially when engaging with our neighbors on Nextdoor.


Photo from Shutterstock.