Sharing Is Caring: The Rise Of The Sharing Economy

– This was inspired by @SarahMWight and her post on Mythbusting: Millenials in Non-Profits. I don’t know how I ended up here but it started with that initial conversation. Enjoy. 

Sharing Is Caring: The Rise Of The Sharing Economy

There have been a few interesting developments happening lately, trends you might say, that have been gaining a lot of momentum and interest. One could even go as far as to say that these developments are challenging the entire idea of ownership and in a way identity. In a hyper materialistic, individualistic world, one is often defined by their possessions in attempts to benchmark their value and status against others. That is why when you see companies like Mashape, NeighborGoods, Zipcar, or Airbnb, spring up through the sharing movement, you can begin to see the impressions they are leaving on American identity; specifically the Millenials. And just think, all of this is rooted in a simple idea; sharing.

So What Happened And How Did We Get Here?

I am not really sure but when you think about it, the blueprints had been laid out for sometime. First and foremost, the Internet has brought us closer together than we had ever hoped to imagine. Nothing has helped grow the idea of the “global village” and globalization for that matter than communication and information technology; mainly the Internet. Throughout the course of the Internet’s short history, we have seen the adoption of the freemium model, P2P networks, and social media. At the same time we have seen a growth in crowdsourcing, open source technology/movements, APIs, and Creative Commons. Essentially, it is easy to share online when the cost is zero for the user.

Millenials grew up with illegal music downloading companies like Napster and Limewire, blogs, and video viewing sites like YouTube and Hulu, all disruptive companies and phenomenas whose services, prior to the Internet, were once paid for. These sharing networks not only democratized information but shifted the equity from money to reputation. You could say that online, your influence and reputation is where you find your wealth and success. With that being said, does the heavy sharing online translate from the digital world to the physical one? Is the concept of sharing so en-grained that Millenials won’t think twice about it when it comes to sharing offline? I think so and a these companies are betting on it too.

Further more, what about phenomenons like Internet memes, Kickstarter, or The Huffington Post? Crowdsourcing is at the root of all of these. I specifically enjoy the popular Rage Comics, which is open and crowdsourced at the same time. Just think, that’s open and crowdsourced comedy folks. The success of all of these is reliant on the concept of sharing. Social media is simply the tool we use to share.

Question: What Does This All Mean?

So your mother was right, sharing IS caring but it’s so much more. With the rise and adoption of physical sharing platforms like NeighborGoods, Zipcar, and Airbnb, we have to ask, how will these actions have an impact on identity and the notion of ownership? Some say the economy is a driving factor. With sharing, there is less need for ownership and ownership as we know can be expensive. So yes, I do attribute some of it to the economy. Why else would you be willing to share your car (Zipcar), house when you’re away (Airbnb), or that snow blower you rarely use (NeighborGoods)? Could we also be doing this simply because sharing is inherently good?

So with the rise of the sharing economy, will we see a shift in values and an American Dream amendment? One that is not so pegged to the idea of ownership but freedom in the traditional sense but also from material goods? Will the concept of success shift from money and possessions to reputation on and offline? Will we see the end of the McMansion and strive for a simpler life? Will less finally be more? The idea of sharing is not the most individualistic concept, to be honest the idea of sharing is more of a communalistic one. With that in mind, is globalization pushing back? The world has been adopting western values for some time now but are we seeing the west begin to adopt those communalistic, eastern values? Ultimately, with sharing there is a sense of trust both parties must have in each other. I know transparency and vulnerability are semi buzz words these days but could that concept be at work here as well?

Can’t really make too much sense of it but your two cents might help :)


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6 responses to “Sharing Is Caring: The Rise Of The Sharing Economy”

  1. Papi says :

    Dan, great post. A lot to think about. I especially liked the sentence “Will the concept of success shift from money and possessions to reputation on and offline?”.

  2. Andres says :

    Check this out Mr. Dan. Another take on a particularly institutionalized good/service! helps you find private flights with empty seats!

    • Dan Fonseca says :

      Great! This is like Groupon but for airplane flights. I wouldn’t be shocked to find out that Groupon will be teaming up with airlines to provide a similar service. Did you hear about GroupLive? Groupon and LiveNation? Nuts. Thanks for weighing in.

  3. Dan O'Neil says :

    Dan, I love this line… Will we see the end of the McMansion and strive for a simpler life? – I’m pretty sure that this is one of my secret top goals!

    There’s another factor at work here and that’s the sense of impending doom (or as I like to call it, “Change”) – which is driving forward this need to share things, get rid of items we no longer need and also reduce our use of energy resources. Ultimately, whether we are driven there by fear, or if there is a general shift in the human outlook, it’s all good!

    I look forward to reading some more of your posts!

  4. Dan Fonseca says :

    Hey Dan,

    Thanks for your input! I really appreciate it. Ultimately it’s all about the economics of incentives and why the “change” is happening. I do believe that this “opening” up of sorts will lead to greater innovation and human understanding. Here’s to sharing!


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