A screenshot of friend.town shows how users can buy and sell within a personal network. Users can find housing and organize activities too. Screenshot from friend.town website

Safer way for youth to connect

By  Clare Bekkers, Youth Speak News
  • April 3, 2015

Online classifieds have become a popular method of buying and selling, but online purchases can be risky. First, there’s the problem of not knowing the person you’re connecting with online, and whether they can be trusted.

Eric and Brad Marder believe they’ve found a solution to that problem. The brothers developed a way to use social media to make online transactions safer. On March 30, they launched a web site that connects a person’s Facebook contacts with a place to buy and sell, explore and connect. They call it Friend.Town.

The idea behind Friend.Town, based in New York City, is not unlike classified web sites like Kijiji, eBay or Craigslist. The difference is that the Marders have removed the anonymity.

“We wanted to create a safer environment where peer-to-peer transactions can take place,” said Eric. “(Brad and I) went through experiences where we were trying to find roommates and sublet our apartment and going through that personal process on an anonymous basis. Not really knowing who’s on the other end was a very uncomfortable experience.”

Users sign up for free by linking their Facebook account with a Friend.Town account, thereby making their Facebook friends part of their Friend.Town network. This is the key in assuring a safer environment.

“Friend.Town serves as a great utility, especially for students and young individuals because they’re at a stage in life where they are moving and going through transition periods a lot,” said Eric. “Young people are always looking for new roommates, new apartments and our platform provides a way to directly connect to their peers.”

Friend.Town allows you to build your network on a first-degree, second-degree or third-degree basis. Users can customize searches to just include their own friends, friends of friends or a general area or community.

Not only does Friend.Town allow for safer buying and selling, it also serves many other purposes. For example, the “Connect”  feature allows users to advertise events to a wider audience beyond Facebook friends.

(Bekkers, 20, is a third-year English student at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S.)

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