“The Benefit’s of Facebook ‘Friends:’ Social Capital and College Students’ Use of Online Social Network Sites” Reading

June 22, 2008 at 7:20 pm 3 comments

Social Networking Sites (SNS) are a big part of today’s online culture and this article was a great description of how a study on Facebook and college students synced up.  In relation to our group project I thought that this was particularly interesting because College Students are a target population for investment in the non-profit we are marketing for.  Also I think the face that social capital is a result of sites like Facebook is important to the project as well.  We are all valuable in the cost of change….


So on to the article…


Brief description on Facebook, “…Facebook, enables its users to present themselves in an online profile, accumulate ‘friends’ who can post comments on each other’s pages, and view each other’s  profiles. Facebook members can also join virtual groups based on common interests, see what classes  they have in common, and learn each others’ hobbies, interests, musical tastes, and romantic  relationship status through the profiles” (1143).


What’s interesting about this description is that many of the interests people have in common are offline activities and the article goes into further description about how Facebook bridges offline and online.  “A hallmark of this early research is the presumption that when online and offline social  networks overlapped, the directionality was online to offline—online connections resulted in face-to-face meetings. For instance, Parks and Floyd (1996) report that one-third of their respondents later met their online correspondents face-to-face. As they write, ‘These findings imply that relationships that  begin on line rarely stay there’(n.p.)” (1144).  Aren’t we trying in all the classes to bridge this gap?  I mean it comes down to not just making an ONLINE SOCIAL CHANGE but OFFLINE REAL WORLD ACTION. 


Another interesting point the article brings up is that Facebook began in 2004 as a College only SNS.  It then expanded to High School, and beyond the article we know it to have expanded to everyone.  By starting in College it implies a few things about the software, that it was targeted to a young and active community. 


With such a young start, Facebook had to overcome issues like privacy.  What was unique about Facebook limiting the kinds prospective participants was that by keeping it to College students, some of the privacy tension was alleviated. 


But the biggest point of the article is that Facebook and other SNSs created a new way to increase social capital and, “Greater social capital increases commitment to a community and the ability to mobilize collective actions, among other benefits. Social capital may also be used for negative purposes, but in general social capital is seen as a positive effect of interaction among participants in a social network (Helliwell & Putnam, 2004)” (1145)  Which is exactly why Facebook has such potential to grow social causes.  To get people motivated through social capital is the kind of relationship that transcends platforms because it can create real world action. 


The article also points out that SNSs can give people access to all kinds of new information, “Access to individuals outside one’s close circle provides access to non-redundant information, resulting in benefits such as employment connections (Granovetter, 1973)” (1146).  They can support long distance relationships and give us a new kind of community, “Bridging social capital might be augmented by such sites, which support loose social ties, allowing users to create and maintain larger, diffuse networks of relationships from which they could potentially draw resources (Donath & boyd, 2004; Resnick, 2001; Wellman et al., 2001)” (1146).


The article then goes on to show a study done with collegiate students and what the effects of Facebook were on the community.  What came out of the research was that many used Facebook, many have used Facebook to connect with people (offline to online), Facebook members had greater self esteem, and that Facebook helped students, “…accumulate and maintain bridging social capital” (1162).


The possibilities with this kind of platform are intense.  SNS has the potential to reach and impact so many participants.  In today’s cluttered media environment I don’t see many more EFFECTIVE ways to influence people.  Media will always do what it does to influence us but, it seems that we influence each other more than any Big Media ever could.  By linking a friendship via SNS you are linking to that person’s likes and dislikes and likewise them to yours.  Can you think of a better way to accumulate Social Capital?  I can’t!


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Converstations 2 Updated Plan 062408 — cell phone integration

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Megan  |  June 28, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    Agreed, the evidence that Facebook creates potential reciproxity between offline and online communities is an exciting development in ways humans are learning from and interacting with one another in new ways.

    The challege is to determine how to harness or leverage the potential of Facebook to postively impact social capital. The fact that this potential to educate and activate social messages, ideas, etc. has been identified is truly innovative, but like any dynamic communications channel, key messages, messengers, and strategies must be considered for campaigns, causes, etc. to succeed.

    The conversation about “new information” is particularly exciting, because the information available via SNS/Facebook is not one-way communication. It will be interesting to participate in and watch how the value of sharing and creating information between peers, friends, etc. will be tracked and evaluated. Agreed, Lara, the powers of influence are shifting (or has for some more than others!), empowering individuals to be active particpants in determining what is important information, ideas, activities etc.

  • 2. laracm  |  June 29, 2008 at 8:51 pm

    I too cannot wait to see what happens with this multi-directional information feed.

    My only worry is that although social capital exists how do we successfully as a team make this into spendable capital? Because Globalhood offline needs so much funding, how are we going to motivate interest in investing? I hope that word of mouth/messages on FB does it.

  • 3. jasonpine  |  July 12, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    great conversation — i think Reingold’s work may have some answers — there’s a chapter from his book Smart Mobs in your Facebook folder in the Assignments tab of Blackboard. You may also want to ask him via seesmic…


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