The Sharing Economy

People are increasingly trusting each other in the sharing economy – here’s why.


The Increasing Trust in Online Platforms

The tech-giant Google has recently discovered the importance of trust in the modern online marketplace; and it’s discovered it the hard way. As businesses, and even governments, pull away from their online advertising platform over the undesired placement of ads around controversial websites, the necessity of trust-based online relationships has never been more apparent. Given the need for trustworthy transactions, it’s no wonder that we’re increasingly turning to platforms that foster and facilitate ‘trust’ between individuals contributing to the booming sharing economy.

In the UK, which has seen incredible innovation over the past few years, the sharing economy has grown from £2.1bn in transactions in 2013 to £7.4bn in 2015. This means people are increasingly feeling able to connect with others and put their trust in other individuals. Why are people turning to Airbnb and their counterparts in other sectors, such as the online rental platform Fat Lama?  the growth in the market reflects a change in attitudes towards communication and the ability of these firms to smooth out the relationships involved.

People are closer now than ever before.  People are used to communicating with each other at a global level, and instantaneously at that. This taps into one of the major components of a sharing relationship; that is, a general feeling of closeness to those around us. Whether we’re ranting in the comments section of a national newspaper, or sharing our thoughts on Facebook and Twitter, never before have we been so familiar with each other. These online communities have opened us up to the possibility of trusting one-another and feeling able to share not only our thoughts, but increasingly access to our homes and possessions.

This personal connection has also been facilitated and enhanced by the sharing platforms we use. With Airbnb, we feel sufficiently connected to the world to allow others to temporarily use our homes. With Fat Lama, the same feeling of connection allows us to trust someone with, say, our camera or even our drone for a period of time. What both services have in common is that they provide a safety net that would not be there in a merely personal exchange. So, our willingness to trust in online communities comes with a very real guarantee. If co-operation is increasingly becoming an option, and if trust is an essential component of that, then online platforms have played a major role in encouraging us to share. That can only be a good thing.