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Internet Social Capital: Social Networking Sites' Influence on Civic and Political Engagement

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Charlie Bush

on 27 February 2018

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Transcript of Internet Social Capital: Social Networking Sites' Influence on Civic and Political Engagement

Does social networking site usage affect college students' level of social capital and civic/political engagement?


Research Question
Creating Social Capital
According to a Pew study by Brenner and Smith in 2013:
In 2013, 72% of adults use SNS compared to only 8% in 2005.
Not only young adults (89%) are using SNS; 60% of people ages 50-64 and 43% of those 65 and older are using SNS.
SNS usage is more common in urban (74%) than rural (69%) areas
Women (74%) use SNS more than men (70%).

Most popular social networking sites:
Facebook:
2nd most visited site in the world (Alexa 2013)
Twitter:
10th most visited site in the world (Alexa 2013)

Social Networking Sites (SNS)
Defining Social Capital
ONLINE SOCIAL CAPITAL: SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES’ INFLUENCE ON CIVIC AND POLITICAL ENGAGEMENT
Charles L. Bush
Civic and Political engagement:
For the purposes of this study, civic and political engagment is defined as an action towards public interest.


Social capital is linked to higher levels of civic and political participation.
Civic and Political Engagement
Social Capital and the Internet
Early studies suggest that internet usage was negatively related to social capital.
More current studies have found that the internet usage supplements or increases social capital.
Researchers have examined how various network characteristics, motives, and usage affect social capital.
Online social networks are not as valuable as face-to-face interactions.

Subrahmanyam et al. (2008) - Compared Myspace and Facebook users.

Park et al.(2009) identified the four main reasons people use SNS, which include socializing, entertainment, status seeking, and information gathering

Ahn (2012) - Compared levels of bridging and bonding social capital between users of Myspace and Facebook. While users from both sites experience greater production of bonding social capital, only Facebook user saw increase bridging social capital.

Gil de Zuniga et al. (2012) found that being motivated to use SNS sites for information gathering is predictive of increased social capital, as well as a online/offline civic and political engagement.
SNS, Social Capital, and Civic Engagement
Methodology
Independent Variable
Analyses
Limitations
Exploratory, cross-sectional research design

Sample: All Graduate and Undergraduate ODU students (24,923 students).

Instrument: Internet-based survey software programmed on Qualtrics

A survey link was emailed to all ODU students registered during the Fall 2014 semester (October 22-November 19, 2014). Weekly follow up reminders were used during data collection.

Incentive: Participants are offered to be entered in a drawing for one of three $50 Visa gift cards.
Hypotheses
H1: Facebook users will have a positive correlation with Online Social Capital Scale scores.

H2: SNS intensity will be positively correlated with higher levels of online social capital.

H3: Users who are primarily motivated to use social networking sites for gathering information would be associated with higher Online Social Capital Scale scores.

H4: Bridging Social Capital Scale scores will be positively correlated with higher scores on the Index of Civic and Political Engagement.

H5: Bonding Social Capital Scale scores will be positively correlated with higher scores on the Index of Civic and Political Engagement.

H6: Maintained Social Capital Scale scores will be positively correlated with higher scores on the Index of Civic and Political Engagement.
Online Social Capital

Internet Social Capital Scale (Ellison, Steinfeld and Lampe 2007)
Composite scale to measure 3 forms of social capital: Bridging, bonding, and maintain
Cronbach's alpha: 0.87 bridging, 0.75 bonding, 0.81 maintaining
SNS Usage
Control Variables
Facebook Intensity Scale (Ellison et al. 2007)
This scale was modified to inquire about the the respondents preferred SNS instead of Facebook only.
Cronbach's alpha: 0.83
Motives
Socialization, gathering information, status seeking, or entertainment

Demographics
Age, gender, race, income, year in school, and college living situation
Dependent Variable
Civic and Political Engagement
Index of Civic and Political Engagement (Keeter et al. 2003)
Cronbach's alpha: 0.76 for 20 and above, 0.69 for 20 and under
Even though this scale has low alphas, it has been used in a Pew study and produced similar results within the same population over 2 periods of time.
Face validity
Difficult to generalize findings to a larger population

Multiple interpretations of civic engagement

Constantly changing online environment

Reliability of measure used

Crossection study design

Descriptive statistics
Ordinary least squares regression:
Estimate the influence of the independent variable and control variables on the dependent variable
Univariate analysis:
Distribution of each variable

Bivariate analysis:
Relationships between online social capital and political and civic engagement
Chi-square test was selected because the independent and dependent variables were measured categorically
OLS used because the dependent variable was categorical and had 3 response options.
Questions?
1. Individuals and groups are able to access and bridging, bonding, and/or maintained social capital through forming relationships and interacting with others.

2. The impact of varying levels of social capital is moderated by the individual's or group's ability to access and mobilize their social capital.

3. The type of social capital acquired through networking is determined by: (1) the individual's place within the social hierarchy, (2) network characteristics, and (3) networking motives.
(Gil de Zuniga, Jung, and Valenzuela 2012; Putnam 2000; Uslaner and Brown 2003)
(Putnam 2000; Cummings, Butler, and Kraut 2002; Ellison, Steinfeld, and Lampe 2007; Lin 2008; Valenzuela, Park, and Kee 2009)
Critique of the Literature
Limited number of studies
Lack of consensus for definitions for social capital and civic engagement
No longitudinal data
Narrow scope of research
Continuously changing landscape for online networks
SNS are usually lumped in one category instead of comparing different types of SNS sites
Results - Hypothesis testing
Results - Hypothesis testing cont'd.
H1: Facebook users will have a positive correlation with Online Social Capital Scale scores.

Hypothesis 1 was not supported. Facebook users had a statistically significant negative association with the Online Social Capital Scale (Pearson’s R=-.108, p<.01).

H2: SNS intensity will be positively correlated with higher levels of online social capital.

Hypothesis 2 was supported. The bivariate analysis between the Social Networking Site Intensity Scale and the Online Social Capital Scale showed a statistically significant and positive association (Pearson’s R=.587, p<.01).

H3: Users who are primarily motivated to use social networking sites for gathering information would be associated with higher Online Social Capital Scale scores.

Hypothesis 3 was not supported. The bivariate analysis found that there was a statistically significant negative association between users who were primarily motivated to use social networking sites for gathering information and higher Online Social Capital Scale scores (Pearson’s R=-.049, p<.01).
H4: Bridging Social Capital Scale scores will be positively correlated with higher scores on the Index of Civic and Political Engagement.

Hypothesis 4 was supported. The bivariate analysis shows a small, but statistically significant positive correlation between Bridging Social Capital Scale scores and scores on the Index of Civic and Political Engagement(Pearson’s R=.083, p<.01).

H5: Bonding Social Capital Scale scores will be positively correlated with higher scores on the Index of Civic and Political Engagement.

Hypothesis 5 was supported. The bivariate analysis show a small but statistically significant positive correlation between Bonding Social Capital Scale scores and scores on the Index of Civic and Political Engagement (Pearson’s R=.069, p<.01).

H6: Maintained Social Capital Scale scores will be positively correlated with higher scores on the Index of Civic and Political Engagement.

Hypothesis 6 was supported. The bivariate analysis supported Hypothesis 6. The bivariate analysis show a small but statistically significant positive correlation between Maintained Social Capital Scale scores and scores on the Index of Civic and Political Engagement (Pearson’s R=.072, p<.01).

Results - Descriptives
n=3,200 (12.8% response rate)
68.2 percent of respondents were female and 31.8 percent were male.
The majority of respondents identified as White, followed by Black or African American and Other.
15.0 percent were freshmen, 13.5 percent were sophomore, 24.3 percent were juniors, 27.5 percent were seniors, and 19.7 percent were graduate students.
Over three-quarters (75.9%) of respondents reported living off campus.
61.6 percent of respondents reported earning less than $15,000 annually.
Hanifan (1916) argued people are better able to achieve their goals if they utilize the resources gained through their interactions with others.
Loury's (1977) work highlighted on the potential economic value from a person's social network.
Granovetter (1983) categorized social interactions depending on the actors relationship. Further, Granovetter (1983) argued that having strong and weak ties were both beneficial, but for different purposes.
Bourdieu (1986) expanded on Loury's (1977) researching characteristics of social networks and how those characteristics affect productivity.
Putnam (1995:67) defined social capital as the “features of social organization such as networks, norms, and social trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit” Core measures of social capital are trust and reciprocity. Putnam (2000) also differentiated between two types of social capital; bridging and bonding.
Ellison, Steinfeld, and Lampe (2007) identified a third type of social capital, maintained social capital.
Lin (2008) elaborated on Putnam's work by identifying exogenus factors mediating the production of social capital, which are the person's position in society, network characteristics, and the motive for networking.
Defining Social Capital
For the purpose of this study, social capital will be defined as all resources available in one’s social networks that can be accessed or mobilized through ties in the network (Lin 2008).

In addition, the forms of social capital measured in the current study will be based on Ellison et al. (2007), and distinguish between bridging, bonding, and maintained social capital.
(Lin 2008)
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