A Facebook community is trading for positive change

Lifestyle Sports | Lifestyle

Facebook group created to for positive community building, with no money involved

Illustration by Nat Inez, Graphics Contributor.

It’s clear early in our conversation that Zoltan Szoges would rather talk about enacting positive change in the Victoria community than his recent journey to South America.

“I wouldn’t want to focus too much on that [Brazil trip], but by all means you can definitely ask me some questions,” he says 30 seconds into our conversation.

The trip was the culmination of a whirlwind month for the innovator.

Szoges rose to fame in February after founding the Facebook group, “THIS FOR THAT: A Victoria, B.C. Trade Only Group,” where members trade goods for services — no money allowed.

In an online society littered with anonymous hate and social media ‘trolls’, Szoges was inspired to create the group after posting a photo of himself looking to trade a recliner chair on a separate Victoria trade website.

It wasn’t until one user commented, “creepy looking guy,” about Szoges staring directly at the camera in his chair, that his post started to garner attention. Instead of reacting negatively, Szoges was motivated to reach out and get to know the man who called him “creepy.”

When one person in the group said she was coming to Victoria for studies and offered accommodations at her home in Brazil in return for helping her move in, Szoges found an inexpensive flight and travelled south.

Other viewers were intrigued with how Szoges was trading, not selling, his chair, and how he didn’t respond hatefully and instead contacted the anonymous messenger.

Having heard from friends outeast that the Toronto-based trade group “Bunz” had similarly attracted a lot of attention, the thought of creating something similar on Vancouver Island.

Since launching the group in early February, Szoges has watched his creation come to life.

Within a week the group had 1 600 members, and in one month over 3 200 users had joined.

Szoges completed the rounds of interviews with local media: CTV, Saanich News, and CFAX.

When one person in the group said she was coming to Victoria for studies and offered accommodations at her home in Brazil in return for helping her move in, Szoges found an inexpensive flight and travelled south.

“I didn’t really have any personal goals I was trying to gain from [the trading group], it just sort of happened. The one lady posted that she is coming to study here for her masters in April, made a few offers, and also mentioned ‘if anyone wants to come here [Brazil] ‘I’d be happy to host,’” he says. “I could not have even in my wildest dreams predicted that.”

He doesn’t linger too much on the trip though — instead he’s eager to talk about the trades he’s watched unfold in the group’s infant stage.

“There was one trade that happened where one girl traded her barbie jeep for a batch of double fudge brownies,” said Szoges. “That was really cool. I think it would be neat to help kids learn the value in non-monetary exchange.”  

Szoges has future aspirations to spawn community potlucks and grow multiple in-person events to build this idea of community that he started with the Facebook group.

The trades haven’t come without their setbacks, and Szoges understands conflict between traders is a possibility in the online setting. But he hopes his group can help unite people across various backgrounds and social settings, and serve as a learning experience for people to understand their differences.

“I’ve seen some [trades] self-resolved, where people are like ‘Hey, I realized I wasn’t being very nice to you, I’m sorry… And a couple others where I had to step in and let people know another perspective or let them know they’re not communicating [in] the best way possible.”

Szoges has future aspirations to spawn community potlucks and grow multiple in-person events to build this idea of community that he started with the Facebook group. This will include in-person trade shows, events, and swap meets for kids. The debut “This for That” potluck was held successfully on Mar. 16.

As for Szoges’ own trades? Szoges recently posted a carnival costume he brought from Brazil to the trade webpage, hoping to share his recent trip to South America with the thousands of community members he brought together.

“I’m thankful for those opportunities to further develop the community, further permeate this idea of respect and kindness in an online forum.”