Sharing v2.0

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1.8 billion each day – that’s not quite our number of liftshares (yet!), but rather the number photos uploaded and shared through social media[1]. That’s a figure to make you shiver.

In many ways ‘sharing’ seems to be a new trend that defines our generation. Yet the wise ones will remind us that sharing is nothing new. “We’ve been sharing for centuries” they will say. Sure – the concept of sharing is pretty old. Dinosaurs were sharing breakfast way before we were. But it still feel fair to claim that sharing is new in the sense that it’s evolved into a series of radical new models. Cue sharing v2.0.

In fact, sharing has not only evolved, it has gone viral – we’re all doing it – publicly, with strangers. Increasingly many of us are not just doing it, we’re competing at it. Almost paradoxically, sharing seems to be turning into social competition – and the stakes are high. Today being ‘good’ at sharing no longer means you’re a helping others to survive (or at least live better). It means you’ve figured out how to rake in the ‘likes’, and the supposed social approval that accompany these.

What we are sharing has also changed. We’re no longer just sharing berries with fellow cavemen, or cake with our colleagues (although let’s please make sure this carries on). We’re now using YouTube to share videos of blind cats, and Periscope to share a live stream of our wiggling toes.

Most modern sharing models are promising huge social, economic and even political implications (many have argued that the Egyptian revolution began on Facebook). But are all new models of sharing proving equally popular?

No. Within this wider sharing movement there are some areas, notably social media, in which we are grasping every opportunity to share with friends or strangers as if we’re addicts (in fact scientists are pointing out that many of us are addicts). We’re also increasingly ‘sharing’ resources with people we haven’t yet met through platforms such as Airbnb and Task Rabbit. As Time magazine put it “there is no one name – whether sharing economy, gig economy or on-demand economy – that captures the diversity of this disruption”.

Yet within this ‘sharing economy’ there are areas in which we’ve been slower to adopt improved opportunities to share even though they have greater potential for social and environmental impact.  For example, fewer people are sharing surplus food or offering a lift on their way to work then are renting out their spare rooms or booking lifts through Uber.  Why? That’ the big question, which is why in my next blog I’ll be investigating what motivates us to share and what’s still putting us off.

Author Lucie Boyle

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