Social Capital and Internet Use: The Irrelevant, the Bad, and the Good

Authors

  • Barbara Barbosa Neves

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    1. Centre for Public Administration & Public Policies, Institute of Social, etc.
    • Institute of Social & Political Sciences, Technical University of Lisbon
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Correspondence address: Barbara Barbosa Neves, Institute of Social & Political Sciences, Technical University of Lisbon, Portugal. E-mail: barbara.neves@iscsp.utl.pt

Abstract

The social effects of Internet use have been a major concern for social scientists and society alike. How the Internet affects social capital has been a hot topic in sociology and other social sciences: Is the Internet reinforcing and complementing social capital? Or is it isolating people and diminishing their social capital? Social capital is here defined as the resources that are embedded in one's social ties. This article reviews the literature on the subject, looking at three perspectives: one that suggests no relationship between the Internet and social capital, a second that suggests a negative relationship between the Internet and social capital, and a third that suggests a positive relationship between the Internet and social capital. I conclude by showing that despite the prominent dystopian view of the Internet in the public and in some academic discourse (and the moral panic associated with it), research supports a positive relationship between Internet use and social capital. In addition, I discuss new trends and directions for future research.

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