“Social capital is the ‘aggregate of the actual or potential resources which are linked to possession of a durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition’.” That’s a mouthful! More simply stated, social capital is the value, positive or negative, created by connections between people and entities. In the world of big business, companies such as Airbnb and Uber are known for their use of social capital to become major competitive forces in their respective industries. On a smaller scale, individuals and enterprises use social capital to establish and grow online communities.
So why is this important?
Understanding social capital is important because it can be used for both positive and negative outcomes. There are two types of social capital: bonding and bridging. Bonding social capital is associated with connections in homogeneous groups. For example, a homogeneous group could consist of all men, all women, or one race. An online support group targeting specific issues faced by these groups can create positive social capital. Organizing a political effort to wipe out an entire race of humans does NOT! In either case, the absolute value of social capital (the size of the network and influence it provides) can be very large, but the actual value can be positively transforming or completely devastating.
In contrast to bonding social capital, the bridging type involves people or entities from different groups that make connections to share ideas and information. An example of a positive impact bridging type is a think-tank. Think-tanks are institutes or organizations formed to solve complex problems and may include representation from several different interest groups. In contrast, social networks used to promote terrorism can bridge several people and groups from different geographies, ethnicities and economic classes and cause serious harm.
Why should you care?
There are two primary reasons, as a publisher of online content or a consumer, why you should care about social capital. Your involvement as a leader or follower can provide significant value or take it away and cause harm. Are you helping or hurting? Are you promoting or demoting? Your involvement as a leader or follower can be inclusive or exclusive. As a leader, are you publishing content that unites or divides? As a follower, are you approaching content with an open mind in a way that is inclusive or creates unnecessary boundaries?
As you ponder these questions on either side of the spectrum, keep in mind that millions of people are reading billions of pages each month on WordPress alone (WordPress Activity). What you say, read and comment on matters! How valuable is your social capital?
©Room2GrowGarden.com, November 30, 2017
Oztok, M., Zingaro, D., & Makos, A. (2013). What social capital can tell us about social presence. British Journal Of Educational Technology, 44(6), E203-E206. doi:10.1111/bjet.12079
Accessed November 30, 2017. <https://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/socialcapital.asp>
Accessed November 30, 2017. <http://www.dictionary.com/browse/think–tank>