I was quite interested to read — via the link to Atlantic Cities above as well as on Science Daily — about research suggesting that “Freecycle generates feelings of group unity and cohesion [PDF] among the people who participate in it.”
Freecycle is the “hey I have this thing if you wanted it let me know” service that I wrote about some years ago, calling the underlying practice “unconsumption.” My interest then was: “It’s worth pondering whether getting rid of stuff can ever feel as good as getting it.” I more or less concluded the answer was Yes, and eventually that led to this very site you are reading right now.
Obviously we’ve gotten more expansive about what unconsumption means, but our advocacy of “creative reuse and mindful consumer behavior” still ties back to the very notions that these researchers have examined. Here’s a little more on their study:
Sociologists have long been intrigued by these kinds of benevolent “generalized exchange communities.” … What motivates people to participate in them?
“This old idea that gift-giving communities generate lots of solidarity, is it true and does it hold up outside of the lab?” asks Robb Willer, a sociologist at the University of California. “We found that it does.”
Freecycle generates feelings of group unity and cohesion [PDF] among the people who participate in it. “First, you sort of build this feeling of group identification,” Willer says. “Then you build this feeling of solidarity. Then after that you’re more motivated to give to the system.”
Interestingly, you don’t get the same benefits from participating on Craigslist, which is a more traditional type of “direct exchange system” based on the quid pro quo that you’ll give me something – probably cash – in return for my old love seat. The researchers drew their conclusions by conducting extensive surveys of hundreds of users of both of these networks.
I am a die hard free-cycler. I have given away a toddler bed, cloth diapers, kids clothes and toys as well as a Dogloo and mason jars. That doesn’t include the items I have offered up when people post their wants and needs.
I have been fortunate enough to receive an amazing vintage sewing machine (The very one I use for my Indie Business Modern Wednesday), a half ton load of mason jars (some vintage), a heavy bag and an extra large filing cabinet and I am sure that is not all.
All in all it has been a great experience and I encourage people to participate. Visit Freecycle.org to find a local chapter in your area. All you need is a Yahoo i.d. to participate as it is done through Yahoo groups.