What the hell happened to Couchsurfing these days? Really... 🙁
Just a few years ago it was so easy to couchsurf, I would never usually need to send more than 3 or 4 requests to find a good host, even with just two or three days notice. But lately, every trip I take it seems to get harder and harder! And on my most recent trip it took me more than 20 requests just to find 1 couch in South East Europe! Many of which were carefully chosen and personally written! And that was in Bulgaria, in big cities like London, Amsterdam, Rome, etc. I hear of people sending 50 requests and not getting accepted.
The problems all seemed to start about a year ago. In the beginning Couchsurfing was started by volunteers as a nonprofit organization, where people liked to help each other, build communities and friendships. However as it grew some of the people behind it became corrupt and greedy, and believed Couchsurfing should be turned into a company. This lead to many of the original volunteers leaving the project to start bewelcome.org as well as many of the older and more active members leaving the site or becoming less active.
Despite many many protests by practically all of it's experienced members it continued to become more and more commercial. Even advertising to force growth and fill up the system with new members who did not really understand or respect the concept behind Couchsurfing, instead of growing slowly and naturally through word of mouth as it had done for many years.
So why is it becoming so difficult to find a couch, or even to meet people these days?
In my opinion it comes down to this forced growth through media coverage and advertising.
When Couchsurfing grows naturally, through word of mouth, through small blogs and so on it stays within the same type of people. The people who enjoy travelling, who enjoy helping others and sharing experiences. I have invited 100s of people to join Couchsurfing over the last few years but I only invite the people I think really belong in the community. And this is how it is meant to be.
But when Couchsurfing is publicly promoted there is no such filter and everyone is free to join. People who see Couchsurfing as a way to find free accommodation, or worse, people who use it as a dating site. The balance of good members vs. bad tipped and this caused even more of the good members to lose interest in the site.
This brings me to another topic: Couchsurfing IS NOT A DATING SITE! I remember when I first joined, I couldn't go a day without hearing this phrase at least once! It was actually quite repetitive and annoying it was being used so often. But now I understand why. I don't hear this any more, and of course the new members have joined not hearing this or caring about this very important RULE in Couchsurfing.
Nowadays female members get constantly spammed from all directions, especially in certain countries. I met one girl who posted on a city group to meet up and received around 40 messages just from guys! Even if they don't post publicly they still receive messages. What image of Couchsurfing do you think this creates for them?
So of course they very quickly become scared to be a part of this now very sleazy community. So again, the balance tips, female members don't wish to host or be apart of the community, and the few who do get even more messages and soon we are left with a site full of horny guys... It doesn't matter if you are single or married with kids; who wants to join a meeting with ONLY guys who all go there just for the chance to hook up with the few girls who were brave enough to come.
Basically all the good members are leaving, and being replaced by people who have no idea what Couchsurfing is meant to be.
Because of this most hosts in big cities receive dozens of requests each week and of course can not host all of them, or even check their profiles and reply to them. Many members make their couch unavailable because of this, which then makes it even more difficult to host, more requests need to be sent, and so the snowball continues to grow.
I must make a disclaimer here: Couchsurfing is of course different in every country and city around the world. What I have said so far is mostly based on countries in Europe and from what I've heard The Middle East and United states. Right now I am in Brazil where the community is still strong and pure, however if Couchsurfing continues the way it is South America may be the next place to join this list.
So I want to ask all of you who have read this far, what should we do about this? And, what should Couchsurfing do about this?
In my opinion the best thing we can do is "Be the change you wish to see"; Of course we must try to be better members, remember Couchsurfing is also about helping each other as well as meeting people and having fun, and definitely not just about meeting people of the opposite sex.
Try to host when we can, because if we all host more, it will be easier for YOU to find a couch also when you are travelling yourself. We must also try to protect the communities that are the glue that holds Couchsurfing together, and teach the new members what it means to be a couchsurfer.
Of course we also have to hope that Couchsurfing will finally realize their mistakes and will be able to work to repair some of the damage that has been done. A few weeks ago the CEO who was responsible for many of these mistakes stepped down, so with a new person at the wheel maybe we can steer Couchsurfing back towards what it once was.
What is your opinion on this? What can we do to save Couchsurfing? And what should Couchsurfing do to fix it's recent mistakes?