Sociologists are hypothesizing that online networks allowing people to give away their stuff for free, such as Freecycle.com, can enhance a person’s sense of solidarity with neighbors and build community.
The Atlantic Cities reports that Freecycle, which has nearly 9 million users, tends to generate feelings of group cohesion. “First, you sort of build this feeling of group identification,” Robb Willer, assistant professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, says. “Then you build this feeling of solidarity. Then after that you’re more motivated to give to the system.”
So both giving away and picking up a box of cast-offs could be good for one’s spirits, beyond the satisfaction of having gotten rid of clutter or not having spent any money. “It’s entirely possible,” Willer continues, “that these feelings of solidarity with one’s geographically identified Freecycle group spill over and help build feelings of solidarity with your larger community.”