9 (2008/2009), ISSUE 14 (YEARLY)
Creating Social Capital through the Internet:
Thoughts and Experiences of Generations X and Y
This article investigates whether members of Generation X and Generation Y sought to create social capital through the Internet. Using an ethnographic approach, 24 people were interviewed and their public interactions with the discussion forums of organizations in civil society were analyzed. The findings both confirm and challenge previous findings about young people and the creation of social capital. In particular, the participants in this study are not apathetic and uninterested in participating in civil society. However, they do not necessarily express their interests and action in ways that are acknowledged by mature adults. They actively seek to create social capital, but not necessarily according to recognized measures.
Social capital seems to have two manifestations, the first being
related to the creation of a secure personal environment which they feel
comfortable to inhabit and the second being related to “making the world
a better place”, in a wider societal sense. When they consider social
capital something that relates to their own well-being and support, most
young people require at least some face to face interaction or the
possibility of meeting the other person or people and believe that online
interactions alone are inadequate for creating social capital. However,
when they consider social capital a good in society at large or in a wider
community, these young people acknowledge that social capital can be
created through the online interactions, using the internet to interact
with people they do not know and may never meet. Further research is
proposed to explore whether differences with previous findings are merely
another example of young people yet to adopt the thoughts and customs of
the generations before them or whether they signal a fundamental shift in
the way social relations and involvement in civil society are conducted.
- Internet - Social Capital - Social Relations - Public - Private
Yerbury has had a long-standing interest in the way people share knowledge
and information and use it to make decisions in their everyday lives. She
has led research projects at the
This article is a revised version of a paper presented at the Third International Conference of The Social Capital Foundation, Buggiba, Republic of Malta, 21-22 September 2008.
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