Below is a piece written as part of a debate regarding the “Bowling Alone” post from last week. In this particular step in the debate, I assume the position of the other side in this argument that technology will continue to drain our social capital. Essentially, “The way I understand your side is…”
Testing the Waters
By increasing the quantity of communication and reducing the substance of conversations that once challenged people???s beliefs and intellectual structures, technology has watered-down the interactions that once built and sustained the social capital necessary for a self-governed people.
Interactions among and between humans in a society is a necessary part of American political culture. The conversations, discussions, and arguments that occur as a result of gatherings, conferences, leagues, and church potlucks (a few of the many examples), create a social capital that exists within and among the civic body. This capital is comprised of the ideas, understandings, opinions, and debates that, taken collectively, drive engagement in civic responsibilities and allow a population to self-govern. When identifying the underlying factor to a significant, threatening decline in social capital, there is no need to look any further than television.
The ferocious rate at which Americans purchased televisions through the 1950s created a generation of children wired for the consumption of television. As this generation trickled into adulthood, comprising an increasing quantity of the population, their values began to impact and upset social capital. The consumption of television programming created a demand met by broadcasting corporations set in motion a vacuum of social capital, the impacts of which still resonate and will continue to do so.
The interaction and discourse necessary to increase or even sustain social capital cannot be achieved through technology-based communities. The connections that are created are often superficial and will not lead to the substantive exchanges as were commonplace in the pre-television bowling alley. Additionally, the political or cultural activism that sparks from time to time built in a social networking platform may seem hopeful. However, this is a collection of like-minded individuals who are uninterested in discourse that challenges them to defend a position and, therefore, perpetuates the decline.??
As people disengage from social experiences, so goes with it the construction of our world as it were. As technology advances beyond the television into an era in which social communication and interaction has been relegated to vapid exchanges devoid of substance and worth, the reservoir of social capital will continue to drain.
So what’s the verdict? Are there pieces to this controversy that have been neglected? From the “Bowling Alone” post to this one, have all considerations been made?