How would you feel if a stranger online invited you to stay in their home? All you can see is a few images of their face and the interior of their residence and then suddenly, you are meeting them face-to-face to get the keys to their apartment. Although this is not exactly how Airbnb works, the concept is similar. You are looking for cheap accommodation so you decide to message a stranger, asking them if you can stay in their place. If they approve, you arrange a way to get their keys and after that, you sleep in their home (to which they may have access). Though this seems to be a ‘red sign’ in terms of internet safety, staying in an Airbnb is a widely accepted and common thing. How is that, though?
As social media became popular, safety concerns in regards to internet anonymity rose quickly. Various scandals caused people to fear the internet and the other people that used it; people were constantly being warned of the online sex offenders and criminals. Therefore, at the advent of social media, it would have been unthinkable for people to stay in a stranger’s home, let alone meet them in person. However, as social media progressed, people began to fear it less and less. It has been integrated into our daily lives and has gained credibility as a whole. This may be due to the fact that social media is widely used by a variety of demographics. My mother is using Facebook, my sister is on Twitter, and my brother is on Instagram. Most, if not all, of the people we know and trust are using social media. Therefore, we trust that the network of people on social media are trustworthy as well.
Though Airbnb is not your typical social media, it has many of the features that allow us to understand it as one. Both hosts and guests can write biographies about themselves, use profile pictures, and communicate with one another. In addition to this, after staying with a host, guests can review the host and visa versa. It is very similar to Uber, except in regards to a place to sleep instead of a seat in a car. The reviews are then available for other users to determine whether or not to stay in the strange host’s house. This is similar to the ways in which we use Yelp and Tripadvisor to determine where to eat.
Such trust in a social media that brings strangers into the homes of other strangers has thus far been successful. Airbnb, for the most part, is safe. Buzz around the social media’s potential dangers are generally low and users tend to trust it. This is not to say that Airbnb transcends any danger, though, as various sources have warned of Airbnb horror stories and how to avoid them. One article shares the story of a girl’s experience with an airbnb host who drugged her friend and goes on to explain the safest way to go about booking. Condé Nast Traveler emphasizes the importance of staying safe and gives tips on booking here. Also, right on the Airbnb website, you can read about the way in which the company assures safety for both hosts and guests. The site says, “trust is what makes it work,” and goes on to explain the safety measures they have in place.
Altogether, Airbnb has been successful in gaining user trust. It has been able to hurdle the safety issues associated with meeting strangers from the internet face-to-face. This trust may continue to grow as social media continues to tether itself to our daily lives but an increase in political unrest could jeopardize the trust that is in place. However, as social media trust is currently the victor, it is important to remember and maintain safety measures when planning and executing these online arrangements.
Featured image courtesy of valeriesophie.
Photo of Airbnb logo courtesy of JaJaWa.