After reading the two articles on social networking websites and their role in building and bridging social capital I began to see social networking websites a little bit differently. I just recently got a page on facebook so I kept my own experiences on facebook in mind as I read these articles.
One of the first things that Thomas Sander says in his blog “Does facebook enhance your friendships “ is how “facebook cheapens the currency of friendships.” Calling people who are really just acquaintances “friends” online, though nice is not as valuable as if it were to be given in real life. I do believe that this is true. If most of us were to call all of our facebook friends in need of a ride home or help, less than half would respond positively. In a true community, one that is filled with social capital, this would not be the case, since a community is based on trust and commitment.
However, I do know that I (and I am sure, others) are not good with correspondence of any kind, whether it be with someone I barely know or someone I see every day. Facebook has helped me remain in touch with people it would be easy to fall out of touch. I also know that almost everyone has facebook “friends” with whom they never talk. In this way I think that facebook can save and maintain social capital.
I do believe, however, that if social capital was tangible, facebook would cause major inflation, lessening the quality of relationships in exchange for quantity of relationships. Taking depth from our local community and creating a thin sheet of virtual connections that spread over large areas and distances.