Social capital, as described by Shirky in Chapter 8, is when people interact together, resulting in more earning potential and happiness. This social capital, in today’s technological society, comes in the form of an alternate reality, cyberspace. And although cyberspace is an alternate reality, it is very much a key part of the real world and fosters an environment of interaction. There are pros and cons to these social networking communities. For example, the company Meetup brings together people of similar locations and tastes in certain hobbies and provides a support group to connect with similar people. Rheingold describes this kind of social network capital as a place where people can share what they know, but also gain knowledge from others in return. However, online forums have sprung up promoting negative communities, such as “Pro-Ana” forums, an example of a self-help movement where people motivate each other to starve themselves. Rheingold describes this movement as a sort of cooperation that exists, but probably should not. So, although social network capital can offer people a place to discuss interests and connect with other people, it can also bring about disastrous consequences for a new generation of technology users. In his epilogue, Shirky discusses the advantage that youth has in the technological era, as they are more familiar with the interfaces and can utilize it more easily. The downside of this, however, is that youth are not more vulnerable to negative influences, such as “Pro-Ana” or “Pro-Bulimia” movements. This begs the question, how can society monitor social network capital and manipulate it as to create a positive effect on the younger generation? Should there be consequences for those networking forums that promote negative, or even, illegal behavior? (Such as removal of the forum).
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