Sunday, October 18, 2009

Social Capital Poem

Social Capital, influence, reputation

Connections to neighbors, family and strangers

The way we rely on one another, and

How often we speak to each other,

A network of people in business and recreation

Sharing ideas and gaining information,

Have bonds, over time, been broken?

Have some neighbors not even spoken?

Some in a desperate need for success

May cling to a personal loneliness,

Most Families no longer eat together,

Most neighbors no longer casually discuss the weather,

Over time, our community has come to this,

What will it become if this problem is dismissed?

A world where if you’ve fallen down,

Although there will be quite a crowd,

Not one face will have turned to see

A little social capital is all you need

Because success always includes the other

The friend, the boss or the brother

Whether church, the club or the den

The human relationship important has been,

The comfort in knowing that someone is there,

The happiness you get in a family that cares,

Human kind recognizes a brotherhood

In a society working to increase the good!

Trust Lab

4:45pm - Susie tells 2 mutual friends that she's pregnant and asks them not to tell anyone else.

5:32pm- I get a text from one of the people she told:
friend -"s*** man, did susie tell you?"
me - "no. what?"
friend- "idk if i can tell's really serious..."
me- "tell me!!"
friend - "you can't tell anyone ok???"
me- "yeah ok tell me!
friend- "she's definitely having a kid!"

8:15- I text the other person Susie told about her "pregnancy".
me- "hey, have you talked to Susie today?"
friend- "yeah i was at Krankies with her earlier. why?"
me- "idk i talked to her a few minutes ago and she sounded really weird"
friend- "maybe she's tired or something. we have a huge project to do for calc for tomorrow so she's probably just stressing"

It took all of 10 minutes to get our first friend to tell me about Susie's fake baby even though she'd asked her specifically not to say anything about it. Things weren't looking so great for trust at that point. After I talked to the other friend later however, the result was more reassuring. Knowing whether you can trust someone or not is an important part of finding out if you really want to be friends with that person. Through this lab, you can see that some people have an issue keeping gossip to themselves, but others aren't tempted to share that same news when they know they aren't supposed to. You can't lable our generation as one that can't be trusted because even though one friend couldn't keep a secret, the fact that the other friend didn't tell shows that trust is based on each person's own personal opinion on keeping promises.

The Decline of Friendships

In ths U.S. today, I can honestly say that a decline in friendships has definitely taken place. The evolution of society through technology has contributed tremendously. Texting, Facebook and Myspace have become the "norm" for quick communication. However, this type of communication lacks the sincerity and intimacy of one-on-one, face-to-face communication that society had before computers and cell phones took the nation by storm.

It is impossible to develop relationships without the ability to express oneself through the use of eye-to-eye contact, verbal communication and body language. A daily text and an 'updated status' does not encourage a true, deep connection with a person. Sure, it keeps you in contact with that certain person and gives you updates on how they're doing, but at this level, it's nothing more than a social calendar full of small talk.

In this day and age, people are swept away by the daily pressures of school, family, jobs, etc. Technology has most definitely enabled us to stay in touch, but doesn't encourage us to take the time to establish and nurture long-term friendships.

I know for a fact that it's hard for me, personally, to stay in contact with all of my friends outside of UNCSA, even though I live in the same town. I definitely use my phone to stay connected to my good friends away from school, but I make sure that I spend time with them face-to-face as often as I can. Staying a few minutes after church to socialize with my friends there or inviting a friend over for the weekend are just a couple of ways that I keep my friendships solid and the social capital in my life balanced.

Social Experiment: 31 Hours without a Cellphone

As an experiment to test the social capital of some of my peers I used my roommate, Alexander Johnson, as a test subject to see how one is affected by 31 hours without a cell phone or facebook. With over 1,100 "friends" on facebook and an average of 3,000 text messages sent each month, Alexander is a prime example of modern-day youths that are becoming increasingly disconnected from the world around them caused by ever greater amounts of technology in our lives.

Prior to this experiment, Alex had a serious disconnect from the real world that he subsequently replaced with the virtual world of the internet. Whenever guests would come to the room, Alex would either ignore them or divide his attention between those around him and those in the shallow world of online interaction. In short, Alex had little to no social capital.

Around 4:00 PM Thursday afternoon, while Alex was taking one of his many daytime naps, I got onto his computer and changed his facebook password. Then, I took his cell phone and hid it in the room of a friend. 15 minutes later he awakes to discover that his phone is gone and he cannot access his facebook.

Hour 1: Alex repeatedly tries entering his password into the computer (30 min.). As he continues his efforts to access his account his frustration mounts, believing that he is simply mistyping his password.

Hour 2: Alex's frustration grows to point of a gentle sob (he won't admit to it, but I know). He scours the room looking his cell phone, assuming he misplaced. After a half an hour of searching, Alex then concludes that I was in some way involved with the situation. He questions me until I eventually reveal the experiment and he begrudgingly agrees to partake.

Hours 3-6: Alex repeatedly begs me to end the experiment, but I decline until his anger and frustration give way to eventual acceptance.

Hour 7: He actually converses with his "live" friends in the room and as a result he enjoys the company of his peers.

Hour 20: Alex reads a book (something I have never seen him do).

Hour 31: The experiment ends and Alex is relieved to have his technology back.

Despite the fact that he instantly reverted to his old anti-social habits, I'd like to think that he learned something from the trial he endured. Although technology like the internet and cell phones can keep us connected to those we care about no matter their location, these blessings can also undermine the tangible everyday relationships that we could be nurturing with those around us.