Last year I had my first experience with Airbnb, an online community marketplace that lets you rent accommodations from local hosts in 190 different countries.
While studying abroad, I did some independent traveling and needed an inexpensive place to stay in Barcelona. I met Victoria through her listing on Airbnb, and two weeks later found myself sitting with her in her living room, sipping coffee, and speaking in broken Spanglish. Victoria taught me how to use her espresso machine, welcomed me to use her various bathroom products, and placed clean towels on top of my freshly made bed. I came and went as I pleased, sometimes inviting her along and sometimes just taking her spare key with me.
Here I was, a guest in a complete stranger’s home, with the key to every possession she owned in the pocket of my purse. This was a business transaction rooted in mutual respect, trust, and kindness. More than that, it was a business model that reflected the traditional characteristics of friendship, made possible by the amazing capabilities of the Internet.
In the past few years, I’ve heard countless conversations among skeptics who worry that our increased technology use is hurting our ability to connect with each other on a genuine level. While I understand their skepticism, I’d like to argue that this era of emerging technology is actually constantly facilitating connection by changing how we complete our everyday tasks. With the click of one button, I can get a ride from a stranger in his personal car, book a guest room in a stranger’s home, and even have a college student on a bicycle run my errands for me. Each of these interactions comes with face-to-face conversation, possibilities of further networking, and increased opportunities for gratitude and exchange of pleasantries. It seems that now, more than ever, trust, kindness and social intimacy are taking a seat at the head of the business and commercialism table.
It seems that now, more than ever, trust, kindness and social intimacy are taking a seat at the head of the business and commercialism table.
Airbnb isn’t the only company hanging their hats on a more human business model. This confidence in others is also the driving force behind numerous popular applications such as Uber, Lyft, Favor, and Kickstarter, to name a few. From these companies that place a big emphasis on human connection we can learn that it’s okay to depend on each other, to ask each other for help, and to recognize that the most important thing in life is shared experience.
Additionally, we can learn that there is a place for this type of interaction in modern business models. In this way, technology isn’t hurting our abilities to connect with each other, but rather building us the bridge that gets us to one another. If we can look at our society as a large village of strangers, trading what we have to offer, letting each other into our nests, and depending on technology to facilitate the processes, we can break our village of strangers into a community of givers, and maybe even make a few meaningful connections along the way.
What do you think? How can we find the blessing in a “village of strangers”?
Images via Hart & Honey