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Internet Use And Social Capital: The Strength Of Virtual Ties

2412 words - 10 pages

The introduction of the Internet has represented a wave of global change amongst society. It has changed a large scale of aspects; socially, economically and culturally. It has caused society to change how they carry out day to day activities and how they communicate. Many academics would suggest that the world has essentially become a much smaller place as forms of global communication have evolved and is now quicker and easier than ever. The internet ‘has the unique ability to transmit information and build relationships among large groups of physically disconnected individuals’. (Pasek: 2009:6)
The inception of the Internet came about in the 1980’s but it wasn’t until a global boom of users erupted as it became more affordable in the 1990’s. Since then, a more broad-minded generation has been born. Today, there is an increasing number of households with internet access. (60% of American households have internet access) (Quan-Haase: 2002: 1). Many people state that ‘access is a daily activity… [and it affects] the way people live, work and play in the developed world’. (Quan-Haase: 2002: 1) Millions of people have internet access on their smart phones which means that accessing the internet can be done anytime, anywhere. Research shows that the majority of younger generations are online, ‘88% in 2006’. (Pasek: 2009: 4)
This wave of change has led academics to examine how society is affected in terms of communication. The advantages seem endless, people can face-to-face video chat with each other no matter of their geographic location. The use of the internet does however, have its disadvantages. Does the internet make society less sociable and thus lose out on resources to gain social capital?
There is a wide range of definitions for social capital but the most common is that it represents the resources gained through a persons’ relations with others, and their own ability to use them to gain success. Portes (1995) stated that it is the ‘capacity of individuals to command scarce resources by virtue of their membership in networks or broader social structures’. (Portes: 1995: 12) The internet is seen as a tool for gaining social capital and the resources ‘differ in form and function based on the relationships themselves’. (Ellison: 2007: 145)
There are other types of capital, these include cultural (also known as human) and economic. They occur in conjunction, access to one creates access to others. Cultural capital consists of an individual’s educational qualities. Human capital is measured by the parent’s educational qualities which is passed onto the child who will then have more potential to learn. Economic capital refers to financial assets and commodities. It has been stated that if a society manages to obtain a ‘well-functioning economic system… [this] is the result of …successful accumulation of social capital’. (Siisiainen: 2000: 1)
The categorization of relationships has brought about terms in order to define which type of...

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