This is the second post, providing an overview of the data collected during my survey research of Couchsurfing.org network. In the first post I wrote about demographics, CS use and individual trust in the network. In this one I will speak about motivation to use Couchsurfing and negative experiences in this social network.
Couchsurfing.org users were asked to evaluate the importance of several reasons as motivations for taking up couchsurfing and joining the network. This somewhat reflects the official Couchsurfing discourse about sharing and learning as the main stimuli to use the network.
The similar set of questions asked about motivation for using Couchsurfing service at the time of the survey. This time saving money was named “a very important reason” even less often (only by 36.7%), while sharing own culture, learning other cultures and desire to help others gained the most (around 6% as a very important reason each).
Among other reasons to use Couchsurfing respondents particularly often named possibility to learn foreign languages and self-improvement (usually through the improvement of one’s social skills). Still a reason named even more often than previous two was using Couchsurfing “to find love or sex”. Apparently significant number of people use Couchsurfing.org as a dating website, although as it can be seen from the negative experience section in the same survey, not everyone is happy with that.
Looking into the negative experiences on Couchsurfing was also one of the key topics of the research. On Couchsurfing only 1 in every 2500 references is negative. Previous researchers estimated that the percentage of actual negative experiences are much higher, up to 14.7%. In the discussed survey 24.2% of respondents admitted having a negative experience on Couchsurfing. Hardly anyone has ever left a negative reference though. Reasons for that are too complicated to be addressed in this small post.
The main sources of negative experiences can be broadly classified into several groups:
- Generally inappropriate behaviour (dirtiness, careless by the visitors, excessive demands by the hosts, occasional drunkenness by both the visitors and hosts)
- Sexual harassment (inappropriate remarks or suggestive behaviour towards female members, solved either by discussing the issue or leaving. This kind of negative experiences most often resulted in actual negative references)
- Betrayal of Couchsurfing values (most subjective and somewhat ambiguous category of negative experiences related to unfulfilled expectations about adherence of other party to the CS principles)
Some people admitted that because of negative experiences they ended up frequently using AirBnB or hostels as an alternative to Couchsurfing.
Making world a better place?
Despite the negative experiences majority of users agree with the statement that couchsurfing as a cultural practice makes the world a better place.
There can be different ways of measuring positive impact of the network. Those providing more detailed answer to the question indicated that couchsurfing can help in reducing the prejudice and promoting tolerance. As one of the Couchsurfing members put it: “I think Couchsurfing develops more tolerance towards different cultures, more awareness about what life is really like in other parts of the world and simply broadens your horizon by meeting different people with different minds.”
When directly asked about trust and tolerance, most of the respondents indicated their participation in Couchsurfing made them more tolerant and trustful towards strangers.
The dataset described here is a part of my PhD research on Couchsurfing and hospitality networks, the full SPSS-dataset will be available for anyone after my PhD is published (which will happen early in 2015).