Friday, March 18, 2016

That Person in My House

At the time of this writing, I have been a host through AirBnb* for about a year and a half. For those unfamiliar with the concept, AirBnB serves to connect travellers to local accommodation experiences. Hosts list their available space on the AirBnB website, and guests book online.

Several circumstances aligned in the summer of 2014 that motivated me to try it out. My brother, who had lived with me for two years while going to school, had just moved out. Not only did having him around provide a nice chunk of change, but I realized that--despite my fierce independence and introversion--I didn't actually mind having another person in the house on a regular basis. That being said, I wasn't sure how comfortable I was with the idea of being a landlord to a long-term tenant I didn't know.

Around the same time, a friend of mine told me about this experience she'd had with AirBnb while travelling in the States. She'd absolutely loved it, and I was intrigued about the flexibility of the service in terms of the type of space one could offer, and how guests can go about booking.

Combine this with a strong value in living local, and suddenly I found myself deep-cleaning my house and prepping the main floor guest room for its very first guest in September of 2014.

Eighteen months later, I have not looked back.** Being an AirBnb host is a unique privilege. Sure, I've had a few strange personalities meander through; but in roughly 70 bookings, I've never had a negative experience.

One of the first questions people ask me when the topic comes up in conversation is, "so, how is that, having complete strangers in your home?" To which I generally shrug my shoulders a bit and reply, "it's totally fine!" Which it truly is! And yet I've never really been able to elaborate on why that is--which surprises me, considering how much I generally reflect upon and analyze my own experiences.

This recent TED talk, however, helped me start to understand why the whole AirBnb experience has likely been so positive: it was designed that way.***

It's quite obvious on their website and blog that AirBnb is about fostering community. One of their hashtags is (or at least, was) #OneLessStranger. But to say you foster community, and to design your whole system in a way that invites community are two different things.

In the video, Joe Gebbia talks about designing for trust. I think it can be easy for the skeptical person to look at that negatively, as in, he's designing AirBnb to manipulate us into trust, the same way commercials make their products look more appealing than they likely are. But I don't think that's what he's meaning at all. I hear him saying that he believes in the inherent good of people--something I believe in as well--and the desire to connect. But he recognizes that societally, we are taught not to trust--stranger danger and all that. And so he's designed AirBnb to overcome how we've been 'programmed' for mistrust; he's designed the system to invite trust, the way our basic human instinct does when someone smiles at us.

I feel like AirBnb invites trust while at the same time maintaining healthy boundaries. There are checks and balances in place to ensure that guests and hosts are safe, identities are authentic, payments don't get awkward, reviews are honest, and both guests and hosts are supported as needed. I've also traveled almost exclusively using AirBnb for my own accommodations, and I feel like the system is seamless both ways.

I have had so many interactions that never would have happened were it not for being a host. I have met people from all over the world. With some guests I've stood in a River Valley clearing to take in the skyline; with others I've stood in a wheat field. I've tasted Austrian candy. I am proof that a Muslim and a Christian can live together and enjoy each other's company. I have fostered friendship. And through all this--I hope--I have played a role in enhancing trust between people--not just because AirBnb has designed for trust, but because we are designed for that too.

* Disclaimer: This blog post was created entirely on my own initiative--I have not been requested or required in any way by AirBnB to promote their business; I guess it's just a happy perk for them!

** I am actually excited to find myself prepping my downstairs guest room to open to guests in a few weeks!

*** If you're the kind of geek that wants to look more closely at the research behind the design not mentioned in the video, check out this link.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Photography and Myers-Briggs

I first took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) in my high school's health and wellness* class. It was the first time I'd taken any sort of standardized personality questionnaire--prior to that, all my personality quizzes had come from teen magazines. It was also the first time I remember being able to give names and identifiers to the awkward individual that was me.

I came out of the Myers-Briggs as an ISTJ.** Now, with two psych-heavy degrees behind me, I'm well-aware that the entirety of one's identity is not limited by just four letters. Nevertheless, in the twenty or so years since I first took the MBTI, it has continued to resonate with me in terms of understanding myself and as a starting point to understand others. And of all the different personality tests I've taken since then in my educational aspirations, the MBTI still stands out as one of the most robust.

Whenever I reflect upon or consider how I approach the world, it is the "I"--introversion--that dominates the discussion. Perhaps this is because, of all four continuums, the introversion/extroversion seems to be most widely-recognized. I tend to credit (or blame) a lot of my actions on my strong introversion--my perfect contentment in doing almost any activity solo, my quiet demeanour, the reason I'm absolutely exhausted most Friday nights.

I have read about, of course, and know, how my place along the other continuums--Sensing/Intuiting, Thinking/Feeling, Judging/Perceiving--contribute to my perspective on the world, but I don't generally stop to consider them as deeply.***

And then I stumbled upon this blog post. The author is talking about the Sensing-Intuiting continuum in terms of how each type tells a story, but then she used this image as a metaphor to summarize what she was talking about:

And I sat there going, "ohmygoodness." I could have taken those top four photos. The author's not even talking about photography in her post, but in that moment, I realized that not only does my Myers-Briggs type help explain my love of photography (a very introvert-friendly activity), but it has a role in explaining my style too!

When I got into photography, I quickly recognized that I enjoy close-up and macro work. Don't get me wrong, I love me a good landscape, but more often than not, I prefer to isolate my subject in some way and really exploit its detail. It's satisfying to take a different perspective on an everyday object. And I refer to this when I talk about my style of photography.

Yet I've never stopped to think about the factors that contribute to that style.

The Sensing personality type tends to be characterized as detail-oriented, pragmatic, and focused on the here-and-now rather than on hypothetical possibilities. Facts, figures, and experience dominate the Sensor's decision-making process. We can see the big picture, sure, but we are more interested in all the little pieces of the puzzle, because we feel it's hard to get the big picture without them.

So when I see the above image that visually portrays the difference between Sensor vs Intuitor, I think "of course this is why I see compositions the way I do--how did I never connect that?!" 

It seems so obvious, now, that my spot on the sensing/intuiting continuum might influence more than just the way I work and make decisions--that it permeates my passions as well.

Or perhaps, in true Sensor fashion, I was simply just missing the forest for the trees. ;)

* Affectionately known in Alberta as CALM--Career and Life Management.

** Since then in various educational settings, I've taken the MBTI 4-5 more times. While I will identify first as an ISTJ, I actually tend to flip-flop between ISTJ and ISFJ, because I tend to hover around the middle of the Thinking/Feeling continuum.

*** Well, except maybe the T/F continuum, because I find I feel things quite deeply, and then often think about those feelings even more deeply...