Online Activity and Civic Engagement Offline

Research regarding the role of SNS/Internet use within the political realm is primarily concerned with whether or not online activity can effectively promote offline activism. The researches we discussed this week made a number of contributions to this effort. However, in order to truly understand the impact of social media on peoples’ offline social capital, it is important to consider more specific details about the individuals and the way in which they use social media sites.

Pasek et al. studied the relationship between young peoples’ use of different social media sites and social capital. The researchers do examine For instance, Pasek et al. studied the relationship between young peoples’ use of different social media sites and social capital. While Pasek et al. examine a variety of social media sites and consider numerous factors that contribute to over all social capital, in order to get a more complete understanding of the relationship between social media use and offline social capital, they need to consider more specific characteristics than simply SNS user or non-user and whether SNS are used for information or recreation purposes. This idea is reflected by Karpf who accepts Pasek’s general conclusion, that SNS use leads to higher levels of social capital, but Karpf cautions that the measured impact of social media sites and digital technologies are contingent on the users and the circumstances in which they are used.

In Internet Paradox Revisited, Kraut et al. found support for the “rich get richer scenario” Paradox Revisited as extraverts seem to use the Internet as a resource to bolster offline activities, while Internet use appeared to exacerbate introverts’ introversion leading to more negative effects from time spent online. In addition, Campbell et al. found that network size and network heterogeneity are important mediators on the relationship between Internet use and social capital.

It is clear to me that in order to truly understand the ways that online activity impact one’s offline civic engagement and, more importantly, how new digital technologies can be used as resources for promoting offline social action I believe more specific research still needs to be conducted. Can you think of any factors to examine that could help paint a better picture of the relationship between SNS/Internet use and offline civic engagement? Do you even think that these more specific studies increase our understanding of said relationship?

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