ARUN RATH, HOST:
The sharing economy, as it's come to be known, has grown dramatically over the past few years. I'm talking about peer-to-peer transactions like Airbnb, which lets people rent out an extra room, or the various ridesharing services like Lyft or Sidecar. It seems pretty win-win, right? One person gets an extra cash for a car seat or a bedroom that's going empty. The other gets a cheaper car ride to the airport or a place to stay for the weekend. In a piece for the online magazine Ozy, Pooja Bhatia writes about one undesired byproduct this trend has created - oversharing. Hi, Pooja.
POOJA BHATIA: Hi, Arun.
RATH: So, you write that the sharing economy demolishes barriers that you just as soon keep up. Explain this oversharing that's bugging you.
BHATIA: Well, sometimes you just want a ride to the airport, right? Sometimes you want to rest without having to make nice with the host. But there's another aspect too. I don't like services that kind of muddle commercial transactions with friendships.
RATH: Now, I know you've had a few run-ins with these over-sharers in your time. Can you tell us about your first Airbnb host? This is a man you've nicknamed Sad Divorcee.
BHATIA: Well, he had recently moved out of his family home. So, over the course of about a week or 10 days I got the impression that part of the reason he was actually renting out extra rooms on Airbnb was so that he would have someone to talk to. And that's a - it's a sad situation, right? You know, you want to offer compassion but you also don't necessarily want to be someone's therapist when you're paying $90 a night to stay in his place.
RATH: Have you had any good interactions or are they all kind of intrusive - invading your privacy somehow?
BHATIA: (Laughing). I really do sound like a curmudgeon, don't I?
RATH: Well, I don't think most people would want to, you know, come home to their hotel room and have a, you know, concierge that complains about their ex-wife. So, maybe not.
BHATIA: Yeah. No, I have had some nice experiences. One of them was with a woman I nicknamed Hippie Abuela. She also rented out a few rooms in her apartment. And she was great. But I decided that what made her really great was that she didn't force me to talk to her. The conversations that we had unfolded really kind of gradually.
RATH: Now this is not necessarily a problem for the sharing economy. I've had more than a couple of taxi drivers in New York that have over-shared in pretty disturbing ways.
BHATIA: Yes. But the repercussions are different, right? So, if you use for instance Sidecar, you can rate your drivers afterward. And, you know, similarly if you take a taxi ride and the driver is inappropriate, you can call the TLC - you can report him. But it turns out, after sharing this sort of simulacrum of friendship with someone who is providing you a service, no matter how brief, it's really hard to give someone a bad review. It just feels like you're being mean.
RATH: So, you know, I was going to say one of the advantages might be that you could give the person a bad rating for invading your privacy. But you don't feel good about doing that either?
BHATIA: I actually don't. And I don't think I'm the only one. I think that there is a reason on Airbnb, for instance, that they have separate review slots. So, you write one review that shows up on the host profile but then you can submit other comments to Airbnb that the host won't see. So, it kind of suggests that other people might be having this issue.
RATH: Pooja Bhatia is an editor and writer for the online magazine Ozy. Pooja, thanks for joining us today.
BHATIA: Thanks so much for having me, Arun. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.