Assessing the Impact of Social Network Sites' Usage on Bridging and Bonding Social Capital

Friday, July 18, 2014: 10:45 AM
Room: Harbor Lounge A
Oral Presentation
Esther BRAININ , Behavioral Science, Ruppin Academic Center, Emek Hefer, Israel
Adi GOLAN , Ruppin Academic Center Israel, Emek Hefer, Israel
Or MACOVER , Ruppin Academic Center Israel, Emek Hefer, Israel
When a computer network connects people, it can be referred to as a social network. Close relationships and social support are defined as social capital (SC) and are of prime interest for many sociology scholars. The recent widespread use of Social Network Sites (SNSs) may have SC implications. The concept of ‘virtual social capital’ suggests that there are off-line advantages that virtual community participants stand to gain from their online contacts. Putnam’s (2000) concepts of bridging and bonding SC provide a framework for measuring the outcomes of SNSs’ use: Bonding SC is exclusive and occurs when intimate friends and family members extend emotional support, whereas bridging SC is inclusive and occurs when individuals from different backgrounds make connections through social networks. SNSs’ use can vary in terms of number of sites and levels of intensity. Hargittai & Hsieh’s (2010) typology, which considers the number of different such sites respondents use and intensity of use, was applied in the current study. The objectives of the study were to investigate how users’ social practices on SNSs differ from offline social practices and whether different levels of online engagement have an effect on the quality and quantity of offline bridging and bonding SC. Analysis of a web-based survey completed by a diverse group of 127 adults (47 men and 80 women; ages 22-61) found that those who reported frequent use of several SNSs benefited the most in terms of bridging and bonding SC quantity. However, findings also indicated that male participants tended to benefit the most from using SNSs, due to the fact that a large portion of their online contacts involved people with whom they also had face to face relationships, which thus contributed to bonding SC. Limitations and implications of the study are discussed.