SOCIAL MEDIA AND SOCIAL CAPITAL
In this life everything depends on social capital. It is aptly put that one’s net worth is dependent on one’s networks. Actually, happy the man and woman who builds enough networks compared to the one who develops his or her other abilities. One can have all PhDs in Rocket Science but without the necessary connection will live a miserable life and die poor. On the other hand, a class one drop out who has nurtured relationships and created networks of trust will have a full life. In Kenya, people like Njenga Karume did not come to rub shoulders with the might because of their education but because they had social capital.
What is social capital? Social capital answers the following questions:-
- Who are my friends?
- If I needed help right now, whom would I reach to?
- If something were to happen to me right now, who would leave everything and be there for me?
- Who thinks of me on a daily basis?
- Who would go to any length to promote, safeguard, encourage and support my welfare
Social capital is not very amorphous, you can actually calculate the worthy of your social capital. Just answer the following questions and you will know the worthy of your social capital.
- How many true friends do I have?
- If I were to be in trouble, how much would each of my friends be willing to give to ensure I am restored
- How many acquaintances do I have?
- How is my standing with acquaintances and to what extent can they be move to stand by me?
Social media is a great avenue considering the many people we encounter and are able to relate with on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp, and Telegram among other platforms. While social media is a great tool for building social capital, it may also give people a false sense of self and deny them true relations upon which social capital is built. The challenge with social media is that one can become very popular but fail at creating real relationships. Through social media, even those who are socially dysfunctional hide behind the virtual façade and engage people. However, their engagement is just too disjointed and spurious that they create not relationships with anyone. Actually, all they get to do is create more networks of hate, chaos, gossip and pulling others down.
Social capital is about real relationships; it is about heart to heart and mind to mind connections. Social media is great to the extent it facilitates nurturing of real offline relationships. Those who appreciate social media correctly work on transforming social media relations into healthy offline relationships. It is imperative to acknowledge that not all relationships are healthy and thus effort has to go into creating healthy relationships.
Healthy relationships are those build on trust, openness, care, understanding and appreciation of each other. Unhealthy relationships are purely selfish interest driven. In healthy relationships, people are out to enjoy each other’s company, to support each other, to complement each other and to challenge each other. In unhealthy relationships, people are out to massage each other’s ego, to encourage one another into vices, to use each other and to compete through show off engagements.
I have watched wild animals and realized that animals that have social systems are more successful and dominate their ecosystem. Hyenas in a pack will threaten lions. A pride of lions will bring down even elephants. A pack of wild dogs is a threat even to hyenas etc. This is the power of social networks and those who want success or power have to know how to create networks. It is important that all human beings seek to belong and to identify with some groups. But it is not enough to be a member of the group, all individuals in a group have the responsibility of strengthening their tie or connection between them and other members of the group.
Every network has individuals and the ties that connect the individuals. It is imperative to know all individuals in a network by name and appreciate their capabilities. What is more critical is to understand the kind of tie or connection enjoyed with each individual and know how to either strengthen it or weaken it as necessary.
Social media allows us to connect with many individuals but it is important to sit back and reflect on every individual we connect with and the ties we have with or to them. Some of the individuals were relate with can be classified as follows:-
- Drinking mates
- Sports associates
- Business partner
- Investment partners
- Church or religious mates
- Clan or tribesmen
- Country men
- Ideological associates
- Gang members
Each individual belongs to some category and it is important to appreciate that. Secondly, for all individuals it is important to evaluate the degree of strength of the tie or relationship you have with them. With some the tie is very strong and to others the tie is very weak. The dynamics of normal life apply even on social media. Some that claim to be friends are not friends because they do not have your welfare at heart. Many may only be keen to exploit you. Your popularity does not mean you are loved, actually it could just mean more people feel bad about you. So, just like in normal life we have to be discerning if we are to use social media to build our social capital.