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The Decline of Social Capital and Political Behavior Due to Technology and Mass Media - Essay Example

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The Decline of Social Capital and Political Behavior Due to Technology and Mass Media The advance of technology has always been considered as beneficial to society. In this era when people have developed a voracious appetite for information, the technological advances have served much the interests of the mass media…
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The Decline of Social Capital and Political Behavior Due to Technology and Mass Media
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Download file to see previous pages With it, the mass media has become all the more powerful not just in providing people with the latest information about events; it has also enhanced further its capability to shape opinions or influence the behavior of people. In the United States, particularly though, the technological advance and the advantages it has given to the mass media have adversely affected a particular asset and behavior of the American people which have been upheld for centuries. It is clear that social capital has been greatly reduced and the political behavior of the people has declined. In the early 1990s, at the time when Robert Putnam wrote the essay Bowling Alone: America’ Social Capital, the internet or information technology in general was relatively still a novel innovation; its potential was still being explored. However, by then, Putnam already saw the grave adverse effect of the advance of technology on the attitude of the American people towards issues that affect them as members of a society. According to him, “there is reason to believe that deep-seated technological trends are radically ‘privatizing’ or ‘individualizing’ our use of leisure time and thus disrupting many opportunities for social-capital formation” (January 1995). However, Putnam was still basically referring to the effects of television on people. Since television became a fad starting in the 1950s, there had been a growing tendency for human interaction that is limited to the nuclear family. Instead of socializing with others, individuals tend to be with the families only on their free times and watch television. On the other hand, those who no longer live with their families have reduced their time of going out with friends to watch their favorite shows. Political unity among the people is greatly reduced since views regarding issues in society are shared and discussed in a more limited venue, the home, with a smaller group, the family. The more recent technological advances, particularly the internet, may seemingly have provided an alternative to the television. However, it only worsened the fragmentation or the ‘individualization’ that Putnam had discussed. Television may have isolated families from other members in society; but the internet has reduced interaction within the family itself. While parents still continue to watch their favorite shows on TV, their children are glued to their computers in their bedrooms. The proliferation of laptops, tablets, and internet-capable mobile phones has made the problem even more serious. With desktop PCs, individuals have to socialize with others if they are away from the keyboards. Now, with mobile internet connectivity, people may be seen in groups but each of them is actually spending more time on their respective electronic gadgets. It must be pointed out though that the internet may also be used for more convenient social communication, especially in times when individuals are actually spending time away from others. However, if the individual becomes more reliant on the internet for social communication and decides to actually limit direct interaction with others, then this could indeed reduce social capital. It is clear that the internet encourages the individualization of leisure time, which “could lead to a decrease in social interaction and eventually to a decrease in individuals’ networks or social capital” (Franzen, 2003, p.107). Such reduction on social capital has implications on the behavior ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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