The psychology behind sharing

Although sharing seems natural among immediate family and friends, the rise of online networks and social media has provided a means for sharing to be extended beyond the limits of people we know. The loss of confidence inspired by close knit rural communities has the potential for being somewhat revived from the construction of new forms of trust facilitated by digital communities.

• There is a distinction between an accessible society that has shared common services (e.g. public transport and bike sharing) and a ‘sharing society’ in which you share your mobility.

• The confidence inspired in close knit rural communities is less common in urban social networks but is being revived through new forms of trust built in online communities.

• Social media may be blurring the boundary between friends and family for the younger generation.

The fusion of the physical and virtual worlds is generating new forms of mobility. In the social mobility arena, the new ‘sharing society’ is a good example, and here I distinguish between the so called ‘accessible society’ (shared common services such as car or bike sharing, or public transport) and the ‘sharing society’ in which I share my mobility. In traditional close knit communities which still exist across many parts of Europe, sharing is part of daily life. I will give a lift to that person because they are one of us, they are known; or at least someone will know them.

Urry (2007) makes a good point in this respect “Sharing seems natural among immediate family; with the increase in social media, people have connections all over the world”.

Are the boundaries between “family” and “friend” blurring to the younger generation? Therefore they feel more comfortable sharing with a wider network because they still feel like they are sharing with “their community”.

The confidence inspired in close knit rural communities is less common today in urban social networks than in past decades. However, it is being rejuvenated through new types of trust that people place within new internet communities. Particularly popular among the new digital generations, the old concept of sharing is revived. Lift giving and receiving through smart phones is one example.

The act of sharing releases Oxytocin, the bonding hormone, into the body and increases feelings of well-being. This hormone also provides a stimulus to protect the bond formed against other surrounding bonds. Sharing, so psycho-analysts will tell us, has socially desirable though perverse consequences. A carpooling scheme may work in a close knit physical or virtual village; but not for a broader population. However, the solution to this may exist within the potential of IT mobility services to substitute for the perception of social bonding.
The ‘social confidence’ for sharing in a wider Uber or carpooling community could be provided by the IT matching system that supports it – generating the perception of trust and security inherent in close knit communities – Is this possible?

  • Urry, J (2007). Mobilities. Polity press, Cambridge

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