Social Network Sites: Bridging Relationships, Building Communities

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Name: Davin Dickson Bong
Class: ESL 118/5
Date: 10/21/2007

Social Network Sites: Bridging Relationships, Building Communities

“Communities with high levels of social capital are likely to have a higher quality of life than communities with a low social capital” ( Kavanaugh, Reese, Carroll & Rosson, 2004, p.119). This was the conclusion of a study of social capital in societies. Social capital generally refers to cumulative social resources that resulted out of social interactions and bonds formed among people in a society. This implies that social capital of a community is good indicator of the intensity of social interactions that are happening among individuals belonging to the community. The use of Social network sites ( SNSs) such as Facebook and Friendster has been found to have significant impacts on the level of social interactions hence social capital in a community because they enable individuals to establish new friendships and sustain existing ones without actual physical interactions. This wonderful product of the Internet technology helps millions of individuals around the globe to stay connected with their families, friends and acquaintances. Regardless of whether it’s for seeking romantic relationships, connecting people with common interests or finding job opportunities, SNSs always have something for everyone. Although some may argue that SNSs cripple social interactions in a community, the use of SNSs plays an indispensable role in supplementing physical communications among individuals in a community. More importantly, SNSs can maintain existing relationships that were formed among people in addition to being capable of boosting social capital of a community SNSs may serve as an additional means of communication to offline physical interactions and therefore it supplements social interactions among individuals. Wellman, Haase, Witte, & Hampton (2001) argues that while SNSs may not be the most important factor that forms social pattern in a society, it is still a part and parcel of people’s life (p. 440). Therefore, SNSs may help in reinforcing loose ties that resulted out of ineffective physical communications. Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe (2007) observe that most people that participate in their study use Facebook to consolidate social ties that were expressed by some type of offline communications (p. 1162). Thus, individuals will be spending more time interacting with their friends through both online and offline means, resulting in greater interaction and stronger bond between friends. More importantly, Ellison et al. (2007) stressed the importance of online social network in helping individuals with low self confidence and low psychological welfare who find it challenging to form relationships through physical interactions (p. 1147). SNSs may help to extend the narrow social horizons of people who suffer from low self-esteem due to repeated failures in making successful social connections by eliminating emotions in communications which may be arduous for such people to handle. Although SNSs may not be a substitute to offline communications, they can function as valuable and meaningful extensions to physical interactions which may help in closing communication gaps, tying up loose relationships or even restore broken ties between individuals because emotions are inherently absent in online communications. The use of Social Network Sites for social interactions also has the advantage of maintaining ties between individuals. Wellman et al. (2001) finds that Social network sites are useful for interactions among individuals with strong ties that are socially and geographically separated. Thus, SNSs prevent the wasteful deterioration of strong relationships that took a long time to develop due to a lack in face-to-face communications between closely related individuals that were dispersed geographically. Ellison et al. (2007) further observe that when a...
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