Theme : Social Capital

As adapted from Wikipedia:

"Putnam speaks of two main components of the concept: bonding social capital and bridging social capital, the creation of which Putnam credits to Ross Gittel and Avis Vidal. Bonding refers to the value assigned to social networks between homogeneous groups of people and Bridging refers to that of social networks between socially heterogeneous groups..."

One can often intuitively sense the level or amount of social capital present in a given relationship (regardless of type or scale), but quantitatively measuring it has proven somewhat complicated. Therefore qualitative measures typically prove to be the more successful method.

This interview series categorized responses as related to Social Capital if they matched Putnam/Ellison's (Ellison 2006) notion (bridging/bonding), Granovetter's (Granovetter 1973) conceptualization (week/strong), or Wellman's (Wellman et al. 2001) typology (network/participatory/community). "Unlike traditional forms of capital, social capital is not depleted by use, but in fact depleted by non-use ("use it or lose it")," which merrits inclusion of the questions related to dependence (users who would miss it if it were gone). Most snippets appearing here are ones related to groups or networking (weak ties) and the weight of individual relationships (strong ties).

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Respondent 1

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J: So who are—you mentioned talking to different friends on it—the different kind of communities that you interact with?

I: Well maybe it’s someone I met one night—maybe a weekend like a month ago—I normally wouldn’t ever talk to them again but I friended them on Facebook. So I have some type of connection with them and maybe that will open doors to more times we’re gonna hang out or something like that.

J: So it might be weak ties.

I: Sure.

J: So what about friends from high school and stuff like that? Say maybe they went to another college or did something else instead of college?

I: okay

J: Do you connect to those kind of people?

I: Well in the past, well actually not the past, for a while now, I’ve been trying to connect with older high school friends, because I wasn’t on Facebook during high school, umb… I never friended that many people in my high school, so I kinda went back, I looked through the network, my high school network

J: So you traced through and tracked them down and...

I: and I… actually found my old neighbor, the other day, which is kinda neat.  So umb… he offered to give me a call when I get back from school… he still lives close, but we never really talked anyway… umb and then with other people that I am closer with, that I do talk to on the phone.  Talk on the phone, I think it takes more attention. If I talk on Facebook, like I can go away from it and something like that and I’ve used it almost like an instant message type deal.  Like she’ll respond to me and then I’ll write back it’ll be a series of quotes, it’s not like a prolonged letter where it ends or something like that.


J: So it feels kind of like an obligation then? So would you be sad if it were shut down then?

I: Umb… I think it would probably cut off some communication that I have with other friends from [laugh]

J: The burden would be gone [laugh]

I: Yeah I guess that’s true, the burden is outweighed by the communication with friends that I normally can’t talk to on the phone, so I guess I wouldn’t be upset… it would just be an inconvenience I guess, I guess it’s more of a convenience than a burden.

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Respondent 2

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J: So say your phone ran out of batteries or something, and you were out of touch with Facebook for a while , would you feel really out of touch in general?

I: Yeah, the time that I was off Facebook from Wednesday to I think about, Tuesday, there was a lot of stuff going on, you know when you got all the exams coming up

J: Was this then, before the interview you mentioned to me you temporarily closed your profile?

I: Yeah, that’s like, you know how you hear about events and stuff, and I wouldn’t hear about events. There were like three things over the weekend that I was supposed to go to, and I’m like, somebody comes and like “You gonna come?” and I was like no… and I had to rush and get ready for that stuff… I see like how much Facebook has.

J: So it actually sounds like you were almost held accountable for it, you were talking about you were missing an event because the only way you’d be contacted about that event was on Facebook.

I: Right

J: So it’s sort of become like expected of you, almost like a dependency. 

I: Right, what would we do without Facebook?

J: Well we go back to the olden days when we call somebody

I: yeah a mass text message or something


J: Do those groups correspond to organizations a lot of the time, like I think you mentioned being in a church group or something.  Do a lot of the Facebook groups reflect a real world organization?

I: Yeah like I’m in this group for my church, and one for NAACP for campus, and in a [garbled, sounds like O-gartmen O-H], and some others that I can’t remember.


J: Have you ever pushed an event and used all the connections you’ve got?

I: Yeah my friends have this party and I always make fliers and make it my profile pic and stuff and you gotta get tickets, I got mine, what you gonna do?

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Respondent 3

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J: Okay, so what then do you use Facebook for?

I: I use Facebook for a lot of communication usually.  It’s a good way of keeping track of who you know because it’s such a big campus and usually you meet people once or twice and then you don’t see them anymore.  And then you tend to forget that person, so sometimes I go through my list and see who’s there and keep track of who I know.

J: So you said communication, there’s the wall communication, and message and other ways, which ways do you use Facebook to communicate?

I: Umb, I use wall and messaging a lot.  Wall is usually is like for things that I can open up to other people, and messaging is more private I think because like you don’t want other people to see it.  Those two are the main ones.


J: Okay, so have you ever created a group?


J:Okay, what was it about?

I: My friends and I we made the like, Lettuce and Tomato group.  My friends and I get together at late night and get lettuce and tomatoes and talk about stuff, like girl talk kinda thing.  The lettuce and tomatoes are free and they are not fattening, so it’s good.  It’s consisted of really best friends, and using that Facebook group we make plans and stuff sometimes.  We even went to Jamaica for Spring break and used that Facebook group.

J: Were there face to face follow ups to that? Or was it all conducted online?

I:It was both.


J: Okay, so shifting topics a bit to something I missed before.  Back when we were talking about events—if you get an event invite from someone you know, does that impact the likelihood of you going to that event?

I:It impacts a little bit, but it’s more based on your interest.  Like say a good friend of yours invited you to this event but you’re totally not interested—for example I get invites for business speakers and those are not my interest and so I don’t even look at them even if a good friend sends them.  But then if somebody that I don’t really know sent me a really good invite, like oh there’s this party going on or something informative that I can get something out of, I pretty much go, if there aren’t any time conflicts.

J: So it’s largely about the content of the event?


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Respondent 4

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I: ok, I’ve never posted um an event, and I don’t typically join a lot of groups, but I do find out about a lot of stuff. I get events sent to me, and I’ve never, I don’t think I’ve ever gone to an event that I first heard about on Facebook. It was like, oh yeah I’m having a party, I’ll send you an like ya know an event thingamajigger for Facebook, and if I get an invite that I haven’t already heard about in real life, I kind of disregard it because its like

J:does it matter who that invite comes from?

I:um, not really, like if I don’t know the person or haven’t talked to them, well I guess it does matter cuz I don’t like getting groups or event invites from people that don’t talk to me in real life I know you just sent it to your whole all of your friends. Uh…

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Respondent 5

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J: You keep up ties with it?

I:I think Facebook is great, because you can keep in touch with, you know, people from high school, or your cousins that live in another state, I dunno.

J:Do you use it for people who are close to you and people who are not, both in terms of distance and intensity of relationship?

I:It’s pretty equal.  I mean, I keep up—I’ve been keeping up with a lot of my friends from high school through Facebook alone.  Just by seeing their pictures and commenting on them and stuff.

J:Do you usually let them know?

I:Usually if I visit a page I’ll leave a comment or something. If I don’t it’s just like I don’t have time or something.


J: If you get a gift, or even an invitation to something does it matter who makes the invite?

I:Yeah, if it’s someone I don’t even know and they say like “Oh they want you to slay them in the vampire game” I’ll hit ignore, but if it’s a legit group that I want to join that one of my friends made I’ll join it.

J: So on that note, how did friending people work before the incident with the identity theft and after the incident?

I:Well before I would see like, I’d click on their profile and I’d go like “do I know this person” and if it was someone from U of I I’d be like okay, but now if I do not know them, never heard their name, then I hit ignore, especially if someone—because now you can see how many friends you have in common, like if I have no friends in common I’m like no, I’m not gonna be your friend. If someone requests you now you have actual small pictures of mutual friends and you can just click on and see their friends, it didn’t used to do that.

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Respondent 6

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J: What kinds of communities are those from?  Do they connect to communities of any kind?

I:I think it really depends, for me personally.  It really depends on the time, sometimes it will be for—like when I first joined the informatics minor, I checked that relatively often, and it was something new and exciting and so I looked to see if anything was happening.  I check the AAF group on it, because there’s sometimes interesting discussions on.


I:Atheist Agnostics Free Thinkers.  There’s also the American Advertising Federation, which I’m also in, which gets kinda confusing.

J:Ha, have you ever gotten an event invite for one and thought it was for the other?


J:Alright, getting back, so what kinds of friends group communities do you have on there?

I:Well there’s certain groups that have been made specifically as inside jokes.  But they never really develop, you just join them, and then you never leave them because it would be weird if you left it.

J:Well do you think most of your groups are reflective of organization stuff or more inside jokes and identity traits?

I:It’s definitely more inside jokes and identity traits, I guess I’m not very active on campus. And every once in a while I’ll go through these groups and find the ones that I never look at and get rid of them.

J: So you group prune, it’s not really a history of you and what you’ve done but more like what you’re in immediately, who you are now.

I:Most of the groups I join are more like a knee-jerk reaction, I’ll be like “oh, yeah, I’ll join it.”  I just did that today for something.  There was some petition against an artist, who called it art, having dogs starve chained up, or something, and I was like “that’s bad” and I joined that group.  And I know a year from now I’ll go look back at it and be like “what is this?”


J: Okay, another one I missed, if you get an invite to an event, does it matter who it comes from?

I:If it’s from a good friend, I might be more likely to join it, verses if it’s someone I don’t know

J:Okay, so you’re a little more likely to ignore it if it’s someone you don’t know.


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Respondent 7

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J: What are some of the things you do on Facebook?

I:I check my messages, wall posts, comments--picture comments and stuff like that, I make events for our radio show and stuff.  Just to see like people is like “Is there anything going on and stuff? I don’t know let’s check Facebook.”  Because people always post events for parties and stuff.  Everything, all types of events, banquets, graduations, whatever, you’ll find it like, birthday parties, check Facebook for that.

J: So there are events that belong to organizations and stuff as well as social things?

I:Yeah, they usually put it like on the post, it’s like who it belongs to.

J: So you make events for your radio show, how does that work?  Who do you invite?

I:I just invite all of my friends who could listen, at least try to get them to listen.  People I actually talk to, not just strangers, but you know…

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Respondent 9

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J: So do you ever attend events when you get invites.

I:I was about to say once in a while, but rarely.

J:Does it matter who sends you the event?  Like if it’s your best friend?

I:Maybe, but first I want to see the event. It’s a good way to share information, better than a poster on a bulletin board. More people see it.

J:Compared to a poster in a dorm you think it’s more effective?

I:It gives more information than a poster.  The other advantage is that you can see which one of your friends is goin.

J:Is that an important factor in getting you to go, usually?

I:A little bit.

J: So what do you think about groups then?

I:A lot of groups—they try to be try to be proactive, try to be causes, I don’t think they have much effect.

J:What might be an example of a cause that might not be all that effective?

I:Fight against AIDS, fight against cancer, those groups.  Maybe if it’s an event, like if they’re raising money, maybe that could be important, but…

J: So general political causes aren’t effective?

I:Yeah. It’s like if they’re anti this or join this group if you want to—if you believe in… fighting a war.

J:Do you see groups as commonly connecting to real-world organizations?

I:Definitely.  They get the word out.

J:Do you belong to any organizations that have a presence on Facebook?

I:UC Hip Hop Congress.  I sent out a bunch of invites, Illini Breaks, that was part of Hip Hop appreciation week, we had like seven events that week.

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Respondent 10

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J: Is there anything that you ignore specifically?

I:What do you mean?  Like certain people when they friend you, you can click ignore?

J:Yeah that could be an example.

I:Groups I ignore and stuff too—if it’s a group that doesn’t have anything to do with me, like if it’s some sports player that I don’t know I’m not gonna join the group.

J:Does the sender or inviter have anything to do with it?

I:Well yeah, sometimes if it’s like a really random—if someone breaks their phone and they send it to all of their friends and you don’t really even know them and you’ve just met them once and they don’t have your number anyways. You wouldn’t like join the group and write your number on the group.