This Woman Tried to Make Friends by Living Off the Sharing Economy for a Year

Maria Eriksson quit her job to try and meet as many people as she could through services in the sharing economy.
January 28, 2017, 2:00pm
Image: Maria Eriksson

When Maria Eriksson walks into her apartment, she's never certain who's in her bedroom.

"I look at the shoes in the hallway and try to figure out what kind of person they are, judging on their shoes," Eriksson told me.

For the past 366 days, Eriksson has been sleeping on the dining room floor of her apartment in Uppsala, Sweden. Her bedroom and spare room are occupied by strangers—from New York acrobats, to a Korean family.

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Tomorrow, she's not sure who will be in her apartment, but she knows they'll be a couchsurfer or an Airbnb guest.

In January 2016, Eriksson quit her job as a political writer to live off the sharing economy for a year, a project she calls "366 days of sharing."

Eriksson uses sharing economy services as her main source of income and a way to acquire things she needs, like rides, workspaces, and meals.

But her main objective of 366 days of sharing is to meet new people and making friends.

"It's kind of a personal project for me because as a person, people tend to think I'm a bit shy or reserved at first," Eriksson said. "So I thought that if I tried to interact with as many people as I can, and having all these strangers coming to my home and meeting people, maybe I will become more open as a person."

Eriksson blogs about all of her experiences with each sharing economy service she tries, and the people she meets through them.

The sharing economy is the idea of renting or borrowing other people's stuff, as you probably know if you've ever used Airbnb and Uber, the most popular services in the sharing economy.

But a growing number of businesses and startups are following the Airbnb and Uber concept of collaborating on an existing product, rather than buying a new one.

Instead of buying a dog, you can borrow someone's poodle via DogVacay. Instead of buying a new private jet, you can use someone else's on JetSmarter—yes, there's actually a service that lets you share other people's aircrafts.

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Since Eriksson started the project in January, she's been having weird interactions with strangers. Last month, she bought 24 pork-moose-sausages and mailed them to Palo Alto, California—a job she found on TaskRunner, the online platform that connects people who need help running errands, with people who can do odd jobs.

Image: Maria Eriksson

On a below-zero February evening, Eriksson somersaulted in a park because she was learning how to parkour by a muscular bearded man she met via Vint, the platform that pairs personal trainers with clients.

Yesterday, a stranger knocked on Eriksson's door to pick up her apples via Olio, an app that couples people getting rid of food, with people who want it.

But she's still waiting for the knock on her door for a stranger to use her toilet, via Airpnp, the platform that connects people who need a toilet with people who have one.

The way Eriksson has been living her life for the past year is a glimpse of how a growing number of us will be living in the future, according to Arun Sundararajan, New York University business professor and author of The Sharing Economy.

Okay, we all won't be as drastic as Eriksson—quitting our jobs to sleep on our dining room floor, or spending our afternoons delivering sausages for strangers—but there will be less nine-to-five type jobs.

"We're transitioning into an alternative of corporations and mass production," Sundararajan says. "There's still the large institutions that are providing branding and apps and uniformity, but the other side has shifted away from people working for a company, to a group of micro-entrepreneurs that are providing more and more of the world's resources."

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Sundararajan told Motherboard we're not far from expanding into crowd-sourcing professional services, like consulting or medicine.

"I don't expect random people providing health care, but for child care, for elder care, for situations like, 'I cut my finger cooking, I need someone to stitch it up,' will move to a crowd-based model," Sundararajan said. "As the trust in these platforms grow, a lot of what we used to do inside a company will start to move to, 'I'll do it myself, through a platform.'"

Sundararajan's concept of this new workforce is something Eriksson can see happening in the future as sharing services become more specific.

"As these apps get more and more specialized, I think more people will work in a more flexible way," Eriksson said. "I think most people will have a regular income from a job on the side, but we're leaving this era of industrialization of production lines, so it means that more people will have a job that allows them to have more flexible work."

Throughout 2016, Eriksson relied on the sharing economy for income. She says majority of the dough comes from Airbnb, since delivering sausages and other TaskRunner jobs are less consistent.

On an average month, Eriksson earns 14,808 Krona, or $1,579 US dollars, from the sharing economy. September was her best month of 20,500 Krona, or $2,273 US dollars. March was Eriksson's lowest month of 9,079 Krona, or $1,006 US dollars.

Image: Maria Eriksson

But even in the low months, Eriksson says her sharing economy income is enough for her basic needs, which is all she needs.

"It pays for my housing, my insurances, food and most of the costs that I have," Eriksson said, considering her project a financial success.

She also found success in her main objective of making friends through the sharing economy technology. With more than 200 strangers in Eriksson's apartment, she says the sharing economy has made her less-reserved and introverted. She's become friends with all sorts of people that she would have never otherwise met—from a French nudist, to an American piano player.

To celebrate Eriksson's successful year of living and making friends in the sharing economy, she spent the last day of 2016 throwing a party with friends she made through the various apps and platforms she tried.

Former Airbnb guests entered Eriksson's apartment for her New Year's Eve party, the shoes that pile up in her hallway are no longer mysterious strangers, but rather people she calls friends.