The premise of the Nextdoor app is supposed to be simple: You plug in your address, join what’s essentially a Facebook group for your neighborhood and post your thoughts about issues and happenings specific to your area. It’s where you go to talk shit about your local Dairy Queen, sell your old bath mat (weird) and try to organize a picnic for your cat. You can use it to scream at neighbors who shame you for feeding squirrels peanuts, and you can even alert the people on your block about that one couple who trained their dog to shit on your lawn, specifically. Given these typical uses, I was all the more surprised to learn that people were using Nextdoor for other, less neighborly reasons. Horny reasons, in fact.
When I first joined Nextdoor for my neighborhood in Brooklyn, I quickly discovered that one of the biggest local groups was for a page called “Dating.” At 742 members, it paled in comparison to larger groups like “Brooklyn Foodies” (3,761 members) or “Dog Lovers” (2,656 members) but it wasn’t peanut-sized either. The general tone of “Dating” is polite and only vaguely predatory, with posts from lonely hearts chasing “good vibes,” men looking for “a nice lady” and moms looking for “genuine” connections.
Many of these thirsty posts wind up on the Twitter account Best of Nextdoor, a mini-franchise that, at nearly half a million followers, has a stronger online presence than the official Nextdoor account itself. Best of Nextdoor is dedicated to presenting the best posts that definitely shouldn’t be on a neighborhood service app, like a wife searching for a divorce attorney from the Nextdoor account she shares with her husband, or a photo of loose dildos of various sizes.
Of course, horny Nextdoor posts are an integral component of Best of Nextdoor. These posts usually make you feel one of two ways: “I’m sorry, can you repeat that?” or “Oh, I get it. You’re someone’s grandma.” Often, they’re written by trolls or people who don’t realize they just typed the word “labia” instead of “lanai.” But sometimes, they’re written by people who are looking to form real connections.
And by connections, I mean no-no zone stuff. Like this unidentified man, who asked the couples in his neighborhood if they wanted to fuck in the back of his station wagon while he provided “refreshments and other amenities.” Or Wade in Portland, who let his neighborhood know that his “wife always says she wants to try pegging.” Or maybe even Sunset Hills’ Jauh, who very simply needed a local “sugar momma.” One very generous person even posted an unprovoked update about a cucumber that looks like a penis.
But despite the ubiquity of these thirsty posts, Jenn Takahashi, Best of Nextdoor’s curator and founder, would like to remind you that the app is “not a dating site.” “Neighbors trying to date on Nextdoor has become so ridiculously common that I have a recurring tweet series about it,” she writes over email. “You want to shoot your shot publicly? In front of your whole neighborhood? [And] on Nextdoor, where you can actually see how crazy your neighbors are? You want to date them?!”
It’s a fair point, but a sizable amount of the horny posts you find on Nextdoor are just earnest queries for actual soul and/or sex mates. There was a sweet Memorial Day post in my neighborhood’s “Dating” group where a man announced an open call for a “little brown-bag lunch gathering of a diverse Brooklyn crew,” and an older woman posted a smiling selfie along with the description “I’m very vivacious and a people person, thanks!!!”
It also seems like every other person has had at least one experience being flirted with on the app, occasionally against their will. Peyton Graves, a 26-year-old Texan, is in the latter camp, describing the men that DM her pick-up lines or compliments on Nextdoor as “fuckin’ weirdos.”
“To be honest with you, I was totally taken aback by men trying to use Nextdoor as a dating app,” Graves tells me. “On apps, you typically keep your location private. If you want to share that with someone on your own, that’s up to you. On Nextdoor, people can see where you live. It’s much more personal. So when someone uses Nextdoor to flirt, it makes me feel uneasy.” In other words: Not only is Nextdoor where the freaks are, it’s where the freaks who know where you live are.
In the three years she’s been on Nextdoor, about 10 men have sent her unsolicited, flirty messages or attempted to take her on a date. I got some of that as well — during the two weeks I spent on the app, one of my neighbors responded to my request for sources with a request for a date. “I have yet to use this app for dating,” he told me. “With that being said, maybe we should grab a drink, lol.” I didn’t respond.
Meanwhile, when I saw that a woman in my neighborhood had her whole ass out in her profile photo, I knew I had to know more. To gather intel, I poked around in “Dating: Women for Women” — the ass-out woman’s group — as an assertion of my bisexual rights. I also joined “Inner Pleasure 101 Thing You Will Love to Do,” because I was both haunted and moved by its title.
But a lot of what I saw was tame, at least in comparison to the twisted world of online dating I was accustomed to. In “Dating,” I saw people of all ages posting because they were new to the area or because, as they often coyly wrote, “I enjoy meeting new people.” This was sometimes code for, as one man put it, finding “local ladies who are active and spry. Ideally in their 50s-60s.” Another woman very innocently wondered aloud why “most men want nudes and sexting.” “I’m not sure why this is so common, especially when you can get those types of pics online for free,” she wrote. “My search continues, but the audacity is entertaining.”
Of course, there were a few shirtless selfies, or simple declarations like “I need a girlfriend,” but even “Inner Pleasure 101 Thing You Will Love to Do” was lacking in the 101 Pleasures department. There were three total posts in that group, one from a man that just said, “Hi. Hey guys,” and two from the group’s founder, Jamaal. Jamaal wanted to know if anyone would let a lover wax them or if they understood their partner’s “inner voice.” Unfortunately, no one responded to either of these very fair prompts.
Although I attempted to contact many of these posters, I’ve come to the conclusion that most people who post horny things on Nextdoor probably hit “post” and then ghost. A lot of the romantic-sexual-loneliness content receives little to no engagement, and most everyone who posts it ends up inactive on the app, presumably because they never found what they were looking for.
I did chat briefly with two people, Sade and Jorge (whose name I’ve changed at his request), who both told me they had gone on a date with someone from Nextdoor. Sade didn’t disclose much other than the recent date “went okay,” but unlike Graves, she said that she felt more comfortable on Nextdoor than a traditional dating app because of how local it was. Jorge ghosted me after insisting he would discuss his former Nextdoor flame with me “tomorrow,” but wished me a “great, wonderful Tuesday night” before never responding to me again.
Although the reasons that people choose to horny-post on an app like Nextdoor instead of a more generationally acceptable app like Snapchat or Instagram DM might seem obtuse or strange, the diverse posts and self-admitted motivations for choosing Nextdoor make me think that although it’s an unexpected dating zone, the answer to why people gravitate towards it is simple: People want to feel less alone when they’re at home, and reaching out is just the neighborly thing to do.