Venmo – Personal Finances Made Public

finances-made-publicPersonal finances are something typically kept very private. Usually, the account owner and bank teller may be the only people to ever lay eyes on an account’s bank balance. While this is still largely true, social media is offering our friends ever more insight into our personal finances. In the old days most transactions were done in person with cash. Eventually they moved towards credit cards, and finally we have begun to remove the physical aspect altogether. Creations such as apple pay allow people to pay with their smart phones and smart watches.

For now, these transactions are private. One place in particular that has changed immensely is the interpersonal payment landscape. No longer do I settle transactions with friends via cash or check. When I owe a friend a few bucks, all he has to say – or better yet text – is “Venmo me” and moments later he’s got his money. This all seems incredibly convenient and normal, but there is a rather unique aspect to this platform which was nowhere near as present in other payment platforms such as Paypal (Venmo’s parent).

On a Friday night when I stay in watching a movie on Netflix or am looking up cute cat vifomodeos on Youtube, I will occasionally take to social media to see what I’m missing out on. I might check out my friends Snapchat stories, look down my Facebook newsfeed, scroll through Instagram, and in a certain kind of mood I may even check out LinkedIn. Once I am thoroughly dissatisfied with my own Friday night I will have accomplished a sense of “FOMO” (Fear-Of-Missing-Out).

 

Those were all the traditional ways that millennials kept tabs on their friends. In a peculiar shift, personal payments are now becoming a way to tell your friends what you’re doing and missing-outwho you’re doing it with. Venmo has a decidedly social component that we haven’t seen from it’s peers, a feed of all your friends’ spending. There’s no better way to say you’re having fun than to pay your best friend. $10 for “Drinks at Tavern in the Square!” Not only has the term “Venmo me” entered our ordinary vocabulary, a new term has begun to emerge called “Venvy.” Venvy is the sense of jealousy or FOMO that you can get from scrolling though the Venmo newsfeed and seeing what your friends did last night.

There’s no doubt that the fun, social aspect of sending a public quirky message along with your payment has been a large part of Venmo’s success. Suddenly there’s a payment app that gives you a reason to log on with no intention of spending or receiving venmo-app-redeisgnmoney. When all my transactions were private, there wasn’t much terribly interesting for me to look at on my banking app. Now I’m logged on just to see what my friends spend money on.

rent money.jpg

I find this open platform both startling for its lack of privacy as well as the degree to which its users don’t seem to care. At times I have even seen people pay rent on Venmo, offering a startling insight into that person’s living expenses in a very public forum. While I know most people use do exercise some discretion in choosing which posts are made public and which are not, the old tradition of personal finances being personal is fading away.

 

10 comments

  1. Great post, though I’m a bit ambivalent about the fact that I’ll probably glance at venmo sometime this weekend and entrench fomo. Maybe the fact that people have been so quick to adopt social payment platforms will enable Facebook to gain ground with its recent transition to payments. Regarding privacy concerns, I’ve never seen people’s privacy settings in place to show transaction values on venmo, but I’m afraid of the social implications when this becomes the norm, like whether people are going to be judging each other about income/means in an explicit way.

  2. rohansuwarna · ·

    Great job! I really enjoyed reading your blog post. I had no idea there was a such thing as “Venvy!” However, I would ask, do you think people actually scroll down Venmo to see their friends’ payments over the weekend? I feel like people only see the first 5-6 transactions because they pop up right underneath yours once you make it. And since I don’t open the application unless I’m actually making a payment. All in all, I can still see users feeling “Venvy” when they do make a payment and take a quick glance at the most recent transactions!

  3. katieInc_ · ·

    Great read! After reading your post I, too, checked my Venmo feed and experienced my own sense of FOMO. I agree — I think one of the unique aspects of Venmo as the pioneer of the social payment platforms is the inherent interactive and “social” nature of the app. Looking to the future of social network payment platforms, I am concerned about Venmo’s ability to retain the secure, private nature of its consumers’ transactions. I predict the data generated by its majority millennial consumer base could be a significant source of revenue for the app that currently generates revenue only through a transaction fee to corresponding credit card companies.

  4. adawsisys · ·

    Great post. I am a frequent Venmo user and I really enjoy how easy it is to square up with a friend or to pay expenses. I have not experienced “Venvy” yet, but as this concept develops it will make a an already successful app even more successful. If Venmo decides that it does want to generate more “Venvy” and become an app that is regularly scrolled through there are a couple of things that it could do. The first strategy for Venmo to consider would be to reveal the amounts that are being paid between people, but this is very intrusive and could likely spell disaster for the app. The second strategy would be to encourage users to describe payments from a predetermined list. Venmo has already began to do this for things like gas. The issue with Venmo being a social platform right now is that over half of the payment descriptions are meaningless emoji’s so the user is not able to understand what is being paid for by other people on the app.

  5. gabcandelieri · ·

    Good topic choice! I agree that Venmo has become slightly intrusive in terms of peer visibility. On the one side, I think each user has the ability to maintain discretion–in the end a person can disclose, in detail, what their cash transaction was for, or they can, for example, decide to post an inconspicuous emoji that does not give away any details about the true nature of the payment. Yet, people still have the ability to see who is transferring money to whom and how much is being transferred. From a business standpoint, I can see how Venmo’s strategy exploits our generation’s desire for social interactivity and blatant nosiness. Personally, I do not mind being asked to share my purchase history, considering I use the application for small ventures such as utility payments and food, but I am definitely concerned as to whether my credit card is secure. Although the transition to digital finances such as the rise of bitcoin, Apple Pay, etc. is more convenient, it also raises the more daunting issue of cybersecurity.

  6. I confess that I’m not a Venmo user, but I do agree that the public nature of these payments (and the extent to which people follow them) are a really interesting aspect of the platform.

  7. I think one issue that many friends bring up with Venmo is its overall security features (they’re CS majors so I tend to defer to their opinion for things like this). I think Venmo has done a phenomenal job of providing a faster way to “direct deposit” into someone’s bank account, but the ease does bring into question how Venmo is securing all of this information. I can’t imagine what a data breach will look like, especially because this would mean loss of bank information and potentially a lot of cash. I personally have never just scrolled through Venmo to see what my friends were up to that night, but when I do have to make a payment, I will catch myself taking a glance at the feed to see what people have been up to. Knowing that Venmo actually does not even allow a payment to go through unless you type something about the description of the payment, I wonder what they’re doing with this data.

  8. Awesome post! I am very interested in venmo and its various privacy implications, I really appreciated your focus on this platform! For a while in fact, venmo was my favorite social media to check- not so much to catch up with friends and see what they are doing, but more so because I got a kick out of the creative and comical captions that people would come up with for their payment descriptions. I think this platform and others like it such as google wallet and newly facebook marketplace is a really innovative approach to personal banking and account management. My worry is privacy. Especially in light of recent news with Yahoo’s incapability to protect their clients, a platform on the personal finance front is equally if not more at risk for potential information leak. Thanks for your post!

  9. Great post. Venmo has completely changed how young people exchange money in the last few years. It’s universal at this point for young adults. However, I don’t think it is going to last much longer. Apple just launched the new “wallet” feature on iOS10 that requires a fingerprint scan of the user in order to authorize a transaction. Venmo’s longstanding problem has been people questioning how secure it is. Apple would obviously be able to provide a much more secure space for digital transactions. Thoughts on this?

  10. While I admit I don’t scroll through in my free time, I just checked out the first 20 or so entries. Just from that glance I have some questions for some of my friends…I wonder if Venmo will stick with Millennials as they age, get married, and take on fewer group expenses.

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