Is There Social Capital in a Social Network Site?: Facebook Use and College Students' Life Satisfaction, Trust, and Participation1

Authors


  • 1

    Earlier versions of this study were presented at the 2008 International Symposium on Online Journalism and the 2008 APSA Preconference on Political Communication. For intellectual and financial support on this research, we thank Sharon Strover. Helpful comments at various stages were provided by Jeff Gulati and Talia Stroud. Corresponding author: Sebastián Valenzuela [sebastianvalenzuela@mail.utexas.edu]

Abstract

This study examines if Facebook, one of the most popular social network sites among college students in the U.S., is related to attitudes and behaviors that enhance individuals' social capital. Using data from a random web survey of college students across Texas (n = 2,603), we find positive relationships between intensity of Facebook use and students' life satisfaction, social trust, civic engagement, and political participation. While these findings should ease the concerns of those who fear that Facebook has mostly negative effects on young adults, the positive and significant associations between Facebook variables and social capital were small, suggesting that online social networks are not the most effective solution for youth disengagement from civic duty and democracy.

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