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Social Networks and Social Capital


Hampton et al. (2015) describe pervasive awareness as being consistently aware of individuals through short, intermittent interactions via social media. What are the impacts of this awareness? Does it have emotional impacts? Does it affect user behavior?

This idea of pervasive, or constant awareness has been heightened with specific technological advancements. For example, in December 2011, Facebook make the switch to a timeline view on the home login page. In turn this removed multiple steps to see what your online social network is posting about. Previously to this, Twitter was created, already with this “timeline” newsfeed and later Instagram came about with its photo newsfeed. Not only are these ways for users to stay in a state constant awareness, but it is also a way for these companies to constantly gain data on them.

As social media developed, with it developed users’ tendency to share more and more of their lives. Lu and Hampton (2016) investigate the structures of individuals’ networks to activities on Facebook such as informal social support, emotional support, and tangible aid. The pervasive awareness of theory is supported by their study. Not only do individuals desire to be connected, but they are seeking emotional validation via their own status updates. This most interesting take-away from this study is the idea of frequency of updates in relation to perceived social support. Users are expecting feedback which in turn give them an idea in their “awareness of others’ awareness.”

Users feel a sense of power when their posts seem to be gaining a certain level of perceived engagement. In today’s digital social world this sense of power has made a real impact on modern journalism. It is almost expected for journalists to be a part of the social media world to have a successful career. Additionally, their personal opinions and thoughts are almost expected on social media sites, while this is still frowned upon for their published stories (outside of opinion pieces).

Users have the chance to engage in conversations about a topic in a way like never before. Not only can citizens engage with journalists themselves, but the conversation can be overtaken with “non-journalists.” If we are to assume that journalists are truth-seekers (and this is what they also post online), and we assume that citizens are must more emotional beings in relation, journalists would never be able to correct or defend a story once the conversation has taken off. One upside to this, one study show that these conversations, even ones of possible misinformation, tend to stay contained in online communities.

Today, with this pervasive awareness, users are not only aware of their personal social network. News organizations, for example, essentially function as an individual user on a news feed. If a user follows a news outlet on twitter, it falls in their news feed just as their close real-life friend who they also follow. With this, users are able to stay in-the-know on the world’s events, but in a pseudo way. Uses and Gratifications theory allow for the explanation that to enhance social interactions, one should appear to be well versed in the events of the day and also appear to take part in the conversation online. This topic is a dense topic. To sum up, literature suggests that an individual’s online social networks and social capital has emotional, political, and personal implications. Future research, that is not with its challenges, will need to be don’t to truly understand why people behave the way they do with their online lives.

Hampton KN, Rainie L, Lu W, et al. (2015) Social Media and the Cost of Caring. Washington,

DC: Pew Research Center.

Lu, W., & Hampton, K. N. (2017). Beyond the power of networks: Differentiating network structure from social media affordances for perceived social support. New Media & Society, 19(6), 861–879.

Groshek, J., & Tandoc, E. (2017). Full length article: The affordance effect: Gatekeeping and (non)reciprocal journalism on Twitter. Computers in Human Behavior, 66, 201–210.