Social Capital and Trust in the Sharing Economy

While researching the concept of social capital this week, I stumbled upon and a 2014 article in Wired about the sharing economy and how it promotes trust. The sharing, or hybrid economy is one that allows individuals to engage in peer-to-peer business with one another via a service. Some examples of these types of businesses include AirBNB, Lyft, Uber, Couch Surfer etc. The article suggests that these applications/sites promote trust by providing biographies of customer and/or seller, verified ratings and testimonials, pictures, and links to social media, encouraging introductions before transactions, and making payment invisible (digital and not part of the face-to-face interaction). The article suggests that these actions promote trust between the people exchanging goods and services and making the interaction feel more human.

It is these actions, infused with personal touch, conversation, and kindness, that get me excited about the future of business. I think our generation is obsessed with developing norms of trust and reciprocity within transactions that will demand that more companies take these ideas into account when building their business models. Even if not everyone can describe it, we know that it feels better to borrow something from, get a ride from, or crash the house of a friend in exchange for cash as opposed to stranger and the companies set up these sorts of interactions, the more business they will create for themselves.