Sharing may not be new, but adopting a lifestyle centered around collaborative consumption is still uncharted territory for many of us. To be a good citizen of the sharing economy, you must have an adventurous spirit and be willing to blaze a new and wonderful trail. The most successful sharers are those who aren’t afraid to be early adopters; they are willing to explore new ways of doing things and share those experiences with the rest of the community.
The exciting thing about this movement is that we’ve never seen anything like it before. We’re still trying to figure out what a people- centered economy looks like. For some people, not knowing the rules and not being in charge of the process will be nerve-wracking, but we can’t give up. Nothing worth doing has ever been easy. Successful sharers have to be willing to experiment, to try even though it might deliver lackluster results, or even failure. But what’s out there to be gained? Very likely it’s new connections, enjoyable experiences, and the opportunity to relish the thrill of solving a problem without wasting time, energy or money! All of those benefits are out there, just waiting for us, but we have to be willing to take the first step of that unpredictable journey.
Part of developing an adventurous spirit means learning to be flexible. Our consumption-obsessed culture has us trained to think that we are always a customer — and always right. As consumers, we’ve learned to be selfish, concerned only with our specific wants and desires. Even giving has become self-centered. Just look at what’s happened to the holidays. Advertising tells us that buying things for other people will make them love us more, or make us appear more successful, or will just make us feel good about ourselves. It’s become less and less about the recipient and more and more about the buyer (giver). We have the attitudes of emperors rather than the humility of servants. As Annie Leonard points out in “The Story of Change,” at StoryofStuff.org, we’ve forgotten that we are merely citizens of a world shared with millions of others just like ourselves. We’re used to getting everything “on demand,” right when we want it, as quickly as possible. When you plug into a community of sharers, on the other hand, you need to be patient. You may need to work with other people’s schedules, and, in some cases, take action on a moment’s notice. If you list a need on a peer-to-peer marketplace like Yerdle and someone contacts you with a way to fill it, your response is probably going to be time sensitive. If you’re looking for a ride home for the holidays through a ridesharing service like Ridejoy, you might have to leave at a different time than you had wanted or be willing to take a different route in order to accommodate your fellow travelers.
Although collaborative consumption can deliver so many positive benefits for our families, communities, and environment, it’s not a silver bullet or a one-size-fits-all solution to everything. Sometimes, sharing services don’t catch on. Sometimes, your peers aren’t interested in attending a community potluck. Sometimes, no one shows up to a clothing swap. Sometimes, the thing that you rent isn’t as awesome as it looked in the picture.
The moral of the story is to remember that we’re all new at this. There is no perfect way to share. Put on your explorer cap and take some pleasure in the fact that you are forging down the road less traveled. There will be some twists and turns. There may be obstructions in the trail. You just have to adjust your expectations, realize that you’re a part of something bigger than yourself, and try, try, again.
Buy Sharing is Good on New Society’s website.