Sunday, October 10, 2010


Internet increasing or decreasing social capital?

In today’s society many people are being disconnected from the real world and converting to a new way of interaction. This interaction involves the use of technology. Today the most common use of this technological connection is through a website by the name of Facebook. Facebook is a place to post photos, videos, and any sort of text you are in the mood for. Statistics show that you will only have around 396 friends in your lifetime. But on my sisters face book account she has double if not triple that amount. Are these people her real friends? Or, are they just people involved in her social network of friends? Well whether you know the friends on your social networking sight in real life or not, just by glancing at their page for 5 minutes or so you can recognize them, find out what they like, and be able to recognize them in real life by checking out their photos. I personally think sites like this are greatly increasing social capital. Just by talking to someone online for a couple of minutes that you don’t know well, you can get to know them pretty well and if you saw them in real life it wouldn’t be hard for us to walk up and say hi. In 2001 Facebook nearly reached 1 million users, as of today there is over 500 million users and the numbers are still multiplying.  

This social Network is growing real life interactions are decreasing. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and with it social capital can increase. But there are problems associated with the use of this technology. People’s social skills can definitely decrease. Talking online is a phenomenon and sometimes people can gain a “false personality” by constantly talking online and not interacting in the real world. Here is an interesting graph that shows elderly people becoming involved in the technological world and showing how they are starting to use the Internet as a social network increaser.

Right off the bat you can see that teens have many more friends than those older. How is this? Wouldn’t an adult who has been around much longer than them have many more friends. This makes it apparent that today in society the ways social capital is increasing is evolving. Teens have created a new way of making social capital without even knowing it. Although there are some downsides to this new Internet phenomenon for the purpose of increasing social capital I think it can be a big aid. 

America vs. Europe Social Capital

America vs. Europe Social Capital
                                                                                                                                                                                                Sean Mulligan

          Social capital is global. The amount of social capital a country has is measured in four things, how much a person works, technology, the pace at which the country moves at economically, and mobility. Some countries have very little social capital, where as others have a lot. Before looking into the subject of social capital in Europe compared to the U.S, I made a prediction that Europe has more social capital. I based my prediction off the idea that within a smaller area rationally, there is would be more social capital rather than in a larger area.

          One of the many differences that America has in comparison to Europe is that the U.S is much larger. With more land mass, it means people have to travel farther when they want to get from place to place. In America someone would travel an hour just to get to a soccer game, where as in Europe if you travel an hour in the right direction you’ll probably end up in another country. Europe has less land to cover when travelling from place to place. This means people get to spend less time in a car, or other form of transportation, and more time with their family and friends. Many people, when traveling, are in their own little world. For example, I know that one of the first things I do when I get into a car, bus, train or plane, is put in my iPod. By doing this I am cutting myself off from the rest of the world, during the duration of time that I am traveling. Not to mention many people now travel by themselves, and with reduced hours traveling, the number of hours a person spends by themselves is reduced.
          Another reason why the amount of space a country has affects its social capital is that when a country is larger, the people in that country feel more obligated to use that space and live farther spread out. In America there are many cases where the nearest neighbor to someone is at least 10 miles away, for example in a place like Kansas. Where as in Europe, due to the lack of space in comparison to the U.S, more people are forced to live closer and in turn, see each other more often, resulting in higher rates of social capital. This is also why people in Europe are more comfortable with each other. Due to the fact that their communities are more compressed, and the citizens living within it are more likely to see one another on a day to day basis, they familiarize themselves with each other, or in other words, become more trusting. Have you ever noticed that European people, stranger or no stranger, actually stand closer to you or the person they are having a conversation with than any American person would? This is because they naturally feel more comfortable and trusting around others for the reason that they are used to having smaller personal bubbles and are more social. It is fact that when members of a community trust each other social activity increases.
          When a country is large, it needs larger amounts of money to keep it economically stable. With a more demanding economy, the economic pace increases. This means that more people need to work harder and/or longer in order to make enough money to keep up with the economic pace. Ultimately resulting in less time spent networking and participating in other social activities that build social capital. America is much like this. People in America spend more time working, traveling to work, or traveling because of work, to insure that they make enough money to maintain life in a society with such a fast paced, demanding economy. Because of this more people in the U.S live in their own little world within this world and don’t have time to be social. Europe, being a smaller country takes less money to help support, which allows more time for people to go out or take part in groups.
          Technology greatly affects social capital. It is both a way to help the social capital grow, and more frequently, is a distraction and lowers the rates of social capital. When analyzing both Europe and America I found that even though Europe indeed does have more social capital than the U.S, both countries suffer from children of my generation abusing technology. Our world is slowly becoming a digital world, and more time is spent on the internet than living actual life. Though some countries have more social capital than others, if the people of our world continue with the life styles they have been living in the past few years, our world as we know it will eventually lose almost all of its social capital.