Patching the melting pot: Social networking and social capital in America
Bouchillon, Brandon C.
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Historically, America has the reputation of a melting pot, a place where different cultures can interact and hybridize. But empirically, this hasn’t been true for more than 50 years. At present, as U.S. communities diversify, residents withdraw from socialization processes, isolating themselves. Feelings of trust in the average person fade from this self-induced autonomy, replaced by perceived threat. But in a recent development, research has begun to assess the potential for social networking sites (SNS) to reinvigorate these measures of social capital. The present study investigates the relationship between diversity and generalized trust on the world’s most popular social networking site – Facebook. While using Facebook doesn’t impact social capital by itself, socializing on the site fosters both generalized trust and civic diversity. In the realm of Facebook groups, socialization cultivates a tangible sense of community. These Facebook group interactions curb the erosion of trust at the neighborhood level. As neighborhoods diversify, people who socialize in Facebook groups put more trust in the average person. So for a diversifying society, SNS socialization can fight the tendency to isolate oneself and withdraw. Ultimately, a model of the ways in which Facebook socialization leads to social capital outcomes is contributed, for visualizing the site’s impact on engagement and trust.