The article for this week is here. It was published in 2007, and so things might have changed. Feel free to express how you think the social media landscape has changed since the article was released.
How many "social media" technologies do you use (Twitter, Facebook, etc)? How long have you used these things? What do they do for you? Do you believe in the notion of “online community”?
This is something that has caused problems for some of us; some have problematized the notion of online communities as true communities. This article suggests, though, that communities online are actual communities, and that computer-mediated interactions have had positive effects on physical interactions.
“Capital” refers to having resources (money) in a market system. “Social capital” broadly refers to the resources accumulated through the relationships among people. Here it refers to the ability to bond with others on these social network systems, and it is quantified by the number of friends one might have on the network. “Maintained social capital” refers to the ability to stay connected to members of a community once the community has dissipated.
From the article: “When social capital declines, a community experiences increased social disorder, reduced participation in civic activities, and potentially more distrust among community members. Greater social capital increases commitment to a community and the ability to mobilize collective actions, among other benefits.”
How high do you think your social capital is? How many friends do you have on Facebook? If you quit participating in one of these communities, I wonder, how would your social capital fare? Would it go down? Do these online communities make it easier to maintain connection with people?
For one thing, there is less work needed to keep these connections with others open when a network like Facebook is used. The initial contact is really the only work that needs to be done; without the Facebook infrastructure (which basically keeps the connection active as long as one remains on your “friends” list), you need to work to keep that connection active. There isn’t really a real-life “friends” list that is constantly updated. Online, there are what the article writers call “weak ties,” loose social ties which are easily maintained.
There are lots of numbers and charts in this article. These stats are not the most important thing for us here. The findings are interesting, though. Facebook is overwhelmingly used to reinforce an existing relationship, rather than simply meeting new people. Maintaining a relationship with former high school friends seems to be a priority. Do you agree with these findings? What do you use Facebook for?
From the article: “Online interactions do not necessarily remove people from their offline world but may indeed be used to support relationships and keep people in contact, even when life changes move them away from each other.”