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"Do unto others as you would have done unto you." The Golden Rule is often repeated, but seems to be rarely followed. That is, until you look closely. We are entering into a network economy, where our online connections are just as important as those offline. Social media and online interactions have brought us together in ways like never before, causing our culture to develop an unwritten rule of reciprocity both on and offline. Call it karma, paying it forward, or returning the favor – it all boils down to reciprocity, and the act of exchanging goods, services, or goodwill with people in your own backyard, and all around the world. Examples Kiva – As a prime example of a digital exchange economy, Kiva connects entrepreneurs and lenders from around the world over the Internet. Through Kiva, lenders donate money to help others build their business, but are paid back when the entrepreneurs find success. The cycle continues, over and over, building the perfect example of reciprocity. Authenticity – In the days of AOL, chat rooms abounded with hate and attacks among users of all ages. Now with social media networks, that feeling of hate has changed to respect, with positive conversations being fostered on public platforms such as blog comments and community forums. We can put a name to a face and interact in a much different way, making these networks more human and enabling individuals to connect on deeper levels. As a result, we’re more likely to treat people with more respect and generosity in the digital space. Stats * Reciprocity can be found in basic human connection. For instance, Craigslist has seen an increased use of the bartering section of the classifieds; the number of ad listings has doubled in the past year. * The number of companies matching charitable donations continues to stay steady despite a tough economic outlook. * Kiva has a 98 percent success rate for the repayment of loans Take Aways Reciprocity is the foundation of social capital. When someone follows you on Twitter, we usually follow them back. When we get a friend request, most people will accept it out of respect, even if the real world connection isn’t there. All the rules we follow in our real world interactions transcend into the virtual world, where they’re becoming ever more important as networks grow. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others online, and become a part of the conversation. On social networks, it’s expected. Not everything is about money anymore. Recent findings suggest that the act of bartering goods and services in place of cash payment is becoming more and more popular, especially in a down economy. We are becoming more trusting of one another through successful reciprocity...

To read more about reciprocity, go to Sparxoo, a digital marketing, branding and business development blog.