Writing three decades before the commercialization of the Internet, Marshall McLuhan promoted the concept of the global village, that is, technology enabling trust between strangers. Today, the Internet has created a new barter economy that experts such as Rachel Botsman argue is becoming a powerful cultural and economic force, "reinventing not just what we consume but how we consume."
By harnessing the power of the mobile Internet, new companies are encouraging their customers to share products, from business ties to cars to children's toys, rather than buy them. For instance, for a monthly fee of $11, Tie Society makes you a part of a tie-sharing community, offering 300 styles without having to drop a paycheck on a new wardrobe. Spark Box is a similar service but for children's toys. Any parent knows how severely the value of a toy decreases over time. So when children get bored, parents can simply rent a new one.
Called collaborative consumption, the new sharing economy modifies the idea of ownership over private property, one of the pillars of the American ideology. The change is part of a gradual cultural shift that takes stock of the economic recession and the rise of social media. In the midst of a lingering economic slump, many are rethinking the imperative to buy a new gizmo when the impulse strikes. Our online lives have also changed what is acceptable to share. After posting your Facebook photos for all to see, sharing a tie might not seem so strange.