Online social networking sites (SNS) are basically the gatherings of individuals who share similar interests. Online communities like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn and Live Journal bring together like-minded people and establish contact between them by providing information about each individual. It is evident that exponential growth of internet users has resulted in increased interactions among individuals on social networking sites.
The basic aim of individuals registered on these communities is to create personal or professional relationships that can prove to be relevant in some or other way. Apart from these websites, there are several other websites including messaging sites such as IM, chat and address book, social bookmarking sites such as Digg and Delicious and content sharing sites such as Flickr and You Tube also bring like-minded people together.
While creating an online community is much easier, maintaining client interest for long is very difficult. In this regard, Facebook is considered as the most successful social networking site. Created in the year 2004, it had more than 21 million registered members by the year 2007 and till date, it continues to be the most popular social networking site with around 500 million registered users. It helps people share information about them and generate a connection with other individuals. Although social capital can be defined in various different manners but the basic remains the same. It is usually referred as the resources built up through connections or relationships among people.
The major impact of social networking sites on social capital can be concluded in a way that they have made it easier for people to gather information about each other and establishing a relevant relationship among them. However, it has certain side effects also. Individuals registered on Facebook share so much personal information about them that they may have privacy problems. They can be traced easily. These resources can be used as information against personal relationships or social relationships.
Social capital is generally associated with a variety of positive social outcomes. As people share information about, it creates awareness among them about financial markets, public health, religion, latest technology, diseases, social disorders and many other issues. Additionally, it increases the probability of collective actions against social evils or any other cause. Although social capital can be used negatively but generally it is seen as having a positive impact on society. Along with being a gathering of like-minded people, these social networking sites allow them to share their interests and establish and maintain their relationships with people.
Social capital can be divided in to bonding and bridging. The former is usually refers to the strong ties with family and close friends whereas the latter represents the loose connections between individuals. If seen as creating a bond between two individuals, it has greater positive effects on social capital while loose connections can not result into long term connections. Bonding always reflects strong ties and bridging always refers to week ties.
Recent researches have shown that internet based links or relationships are important to individuals as they make each other aware of the advancements in the field of technology, politics and finance and current social disorders. This means even week ties play an important role. But it may not end for a much longer period of time.