• Advice

Millennials and the New Economy: Is Sharing Dangerous?

This article is part of our continuing series on Millennials and how their attitudes towards work, education, and technology are shaping the new economy.

Young people are the primary users of online sharing networks to find everything from rides to vacuums to apartments, and as such are the biggest drivers of the Sharing Economy. They share with friends and with strangers.

Some argue that Millennials need to be taught a thing or two about “stranger danger.”

When high schooler Bianca Brooks turned 16, she didn’t rush to get a license or a car. Whenever she needs to go somewhere, she reaches out to look for rides from friends and friends of friends on Twitter and Facebook, a process she calls cyberhitchhiking. Some of her friends use these networks to reach out to strangers.

Bianca produced a piece on NPR about her generation’s relationship with cars and ridesharing. Listen to the full story here.

Stuck in Zero-Sum

Equally as interesting as the piece itself is the debate brewing in its comments section. Critics of Bianca say that ridesharing is too dangerous (killers and rapists will try to offer you rides) – and that NPR should be ashamed to publicize this terrible practice.

This discussion reflects larger issues about our society that the Sharing Economy and Millennials are shaping: Should we trust strangers? Can we share things without believing that someone will take something from us or harm us?

We don’t have all the answers. But we’ve long been in support of forming connections and teaming up with others – those we know and don’t know – in the pursuit of common goals. We’ve tried to make the case that networking is not a zero-sum game; when you reach out to others you both win.

Scott Heiferman, the CEO of Meetup, recently told Sara Horowitz, “You can get lost in this vicious cycle of interacting with people less, trusting people less.” This seems like a very dangerous cycle – and perhaps one that many Americans have been caught in for decades.