The sharing economy has turned into a massive jobs creator for 20′ and 30′ somethings that have surplus resources. Airbnb creates income for people who have extra living space. Lyft does the same for people with a car and some time. And DogVacay gives that chance to dog lovers who have space for more dogs. I am happy to say I’m a member of all of these communities.
And I do earn a marginal amount of income from Lyft and DogVacay. On Airbnb I’m just a consumer (our house wouldn’t be good for that, and we quickly tire of entertaining guests anyways). But I’ve stayed with people where Airbnb is their primary source of income — congratulations to those people!
When you enter into these communities, you get the sensation that we all just beat the system. And we’re making our own system, thereby encouraging us to promote ourselves and the service. When I started with Lyft and all of these, I began beating the drum pretty loud, telling everyone about it. You’re highly incentivized to do so.
It’s also beating the system in the sense that we’re doing business in a way that might scare 70 year olds. Some lady with a car is going to take you to work? You’re watching the dog of someone you’ve never met and they’re paying you? You’re letting strangers stay in your house? We’ve democratized these things and given every person a chance to play. Safely.
However, that trust level also leaves it open to corruption — thus all these services have huge insurance policies. Weirdly, insurance really makes these stranger connections possible. Without it the distrust would be too high, the chances of something going wrong would be too big. In a way the sharing economy is like crowd funded insurance.
This sharing shift also opens up these services to a new audience. I would never call a cab if I needed to get anywhere — they’re rude, and often inconvenient unless you live in NYC. I would also never get to watch people’s dogs, because I don’t have many friends with dogs.The way that these service seamlessly connect strangers and give them an immediate common bond is good for people and society.
What is isn’t
Airbnb claims on their website that the old days before the industrial revolution were days where the community was all the rage. Tight-knit communities shared things and helped each other. That seems all a little idealized to me. I’m pretty sure there were many heinous crimes going on in those times, with pillaging and and raping and murdering. I refuse to say that things pre-industrial revolution were so idyllic — I think that era may be a little mythologized in this instance.
We used to take belonging for granted. Cities used to be villages. Everyone knew each other, and everyone knew they had a place to call home. But after the mechanization and Industrial Revolution of the last century, those feelings of trust and belonging were displaced by mass-produced and impersonal travel experiences. We also stopped trusting each other. And in doing so, we lost something essential about what it means to be a community.
Those little villages they mention lacked something that we now have… well actually a lot of things. But here is what makes it possible now.
- The internet. Our increased interconnection has brought some higher level of scrutiny on social interactions that makes trusting strangers much easier.
- Insurance, like I mentioned earlier.
In summary… Because the internet.