Since its creation, Facebook has become one of the required tools to socialize with people around us. As disconcerting as it may sound, nowadays, if you are fifteen years old and happen to not be on Facebook because you value your privacy or simply because you do not find it interesting, you are not one of the cool people. An even more disconcerting fact is that, according to the Facebook’s official stats release, the average user has approximately 130 friends, which only gives us an idea of the amount of bonding and bridging happening in this global social network site on a daily basis. Considering that new social networking sites like Twitter or
LinkedIn have been developed in recent years, it is clear that this new type of online communication is taking over our lives in a record-breaking period of time. But how is this affecting the way people create social capital? Is it as similar as what it used to happen ten or even twenty years ago? Are these social networking sites creating ties among their users or are they deteriorating them?
Social networking sites have changed the way people create social networks, and therefore social capital, forever. While these new tools of social connections -which are not just used among young people as it may be perceived sometimes- are advertised as helpers for a more interactional lifestyle, they are, instead, slowly disintegrating social networks, and having a mixed result in the obtainment of social capital, helping with the bridging but not the bonding.
There is no doubt Internet keeps people communicated with one another. Before the email was created, a person would have to wait for a letter to arrive for weeks, even months.
Now, with Facebook in front of our computer screens, it is not just possible to email someone but to see pictures, put comments and talk to the person in real time. Because of the privacy settings and the option of choosing which pictures one would like to upload, a person can actually shape the image that he or she wants to show to others, basing this image in what the outside world wants to see from the person, therefore not showing its real self. Because of this, sometimes it can be difficult to believe whether or not a person is what it appears to be on his profile. There has been many reported cases when, on online dating sites, people pretend to be somebody else, or not even that but tend to invent a whole persona while posting edited pictures of their faces.
As Marcia Clemmitt states , “The social Internet is a tool that greatly enhances our ability to communicate with both friends and distant acquaintances and publish information to small or large audiences. But in facilitating social interaction that doesn’t take place face to face, some analysts worry that it may favor superficial relationships, narcissistic behavior or even cyberbullying”. The intimate interaction among people who already are part of a social group may turn into superficial relationships because of the social networking sites. One clear example of this statement is that, in a real face-to-face conversation, a person would not like the other person’s status, or pictures. When in a real conversation, people debate and give their point of view while using body language, not share what they are thinking by posting it on their wall and hoping somebody sees it. The conversation loses its intended purpose, which is to get to know the person by asking questions instead of liking a status. “Facebook ‘friends’ should really be called
‘fans’ [...] it may be becoming more important to impress people with the minute details of your life” says Scott Caplan, an associate professor of communication at the University of Delaware.
Of course, the advantages of the social networking sites do exist, and their main help is for bridging. According to…