Who Wants to Bowl Alone? Not Me?

One of the books we read this semester was called Bowling Alone, and no it is not about the sport of bowling, much less actually bowling alone. It is about fostering social capital in America. Back in the early to mid 1900s, people were involved in social groups, clubs, and organizations within their community. Everyone was involved, but over the past few decades involvement has dwindled, leading some to believe that social capital in America is non- existent. Before we can explore this book further, we must define social capital. According to Robert D. Putnam, the author of Bowling Alone, “The core idea of social capital theory is that social networks have value.” Basically, being connected with others is beneficial to ones life, and as a member of a group you are able to accomplish more. Life is more meaningful when you have friends, and someone to share happiness and trust with.

Do you think that social capital is lacking in today’s society?

Unfortunately, Putnam failed to take into account the age of social media, mainly in part that Bowling Alone was published before such a term existed.  The question now becomes in this day and age, “Does social media foster social capital?” Being connected with hundreds, perhaps even thousands of people, at the click of a mouse does create a network of individuals. On the other hand, can social capital really happen in the digital world? Social capital has always been within ones community, and now since the rise of technology has created a global community, is this still social capital?

Overall, we think Putnam made valid claims about the diminishing amount of social capital in the United States, mainly in groups and clubs. We think that he should write a newer version of Bowling Alone and comment on the addition of social media to the equation.

-Allison Day, Jessica Berinson, Megan Canny,  Melissa Gagliardi, Scott Burgess

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11 thoughts on “Who Wants to Bowl Alone? Not Me?

  1. Putnam’s book sounds interesting and like something I could see myself reading. My friends and I were all born in the early 90’s and we always find ourselves talking about childhood memories from back then. If we aren’t talking about “Hey Arnold” then we are probably talking about Easy Bake Ovens or Lightbrights. Just this past week, however, the question of community came up in our conversation. We all agree that community (or the lack of) is not what it used to be. To me, that is sad. I agree with Putnam and believe that community, or social capital as he calls it, is extremely important to society. It connects people, and who does not want to have friends that they can reach out to?
    In the 90’s, along with being part of book club and attending pot luck dinners, I remember my mom playing a huge part as the social chair for our neighborhood. She was in charge of helping plan events for all types of occassions. On Fourth of July, our neighborhood would have a parade, and everyone would decorate their bikes and wagons and follow a firetruck to the pool where we would all have a cookout. On Easter, our neighborhood would have a pig pickin’ and then all the kids would be able to participate in an Easter egg hunt. During Christmastime, our neighborhood would host Breakfast with Santa, where kids could meet Santa, receieve a present, watch a play, and participate in fun crafts while eating lots of food. The following day everyone would go caroling around the neighborhood while the luminaries were set up. Half of these events do not happen in my neighborhood anymore. Whenever I go home, I feel nostalgic, and wish that community was still what it use to be. I think that social networking sites, such as Facebook, along with the Internet, have definitely had an impact on the community, in some ways for the good, but more so for the worse.

  2. As it was stated in the blog, technology and social media have altered the way in which we perceive social capitol today. I would disagree with the statement that social capitol is non-existent, however I do believe social capitol as a whole has diminished somewhat. The styles of social capitol have changed dramatically due to technology, but they do still exist. An example of this would be things like facebook groups. Technically these specific groups members of facebook are able to join are versions of social capitol, just completely modified versions than what we have seen in the past. Technology has changed the way humans interact as a whole, and whether these changes are good or bad can be debated. However, when it comes to interpersonal social capitol, there is without question a decrease in the number of those involved, and this number will continue to decrease as technology increases. So while I do agree that social capitol has diminished to an extent, it does still exist, just in ways that many and most of us could not imagine.

  3. It’s interesting to think about how people nowadays communicate with each oter and how the social standards seem to change over time. I believe the rise of the internet and all the things related to that are the beginning of the end. People can communicate easier with each other, yes that is correct. But is easier always better, I don’t think so. The meaning behind a text or facebook message is different than meeting people in person. And that you can stay in touch with more people at the same time in a shorter amount of time says in my perspective something about the relationship. Honestly, sometimes it seems to me that it’s more about ‘collecting’ friends than it is about real relationships. I think in the rush we live in nowadays the importance of maintaining a relationship is underrated. Because after all it’s not the text or facebook message you are happy about but the person who is behind it that matters to you.

    The other point I would like to make is that I don’t think it’s always fair to exclude people from the society. Sometimes I feel that “we, the younger generation” exclude so many people who can’t keep up with the latest technology (think about grandparents) and it shouldn’t be the case that people are excluded from social interaction.

  4. With more people being online, that obviously means there is less people out of their homes doing community things. Sure, networking online is and has become an important facet of our society, but for the social aspect of it, not so much. In the documentary “Digital Nation” it talked about how in South Korea there were “Internet Rescue Camps”, or basically rehab centers for kids who were way too addicted to online games and wasted hours upon hours online.

    I was born in the mid-80’s, but grew up in the 90’s and we spent our summers and weekends outside, whether that was playing some game we made up, baseball and other sports, or just taking our BB guns and shooting at random stuff. With the world becoming more and more digitized, we lose that sense of community. I myself have seen six and seven year olds with cell phones. I’ve even seen them with the latest handheld video game system. All I had as a kid was the Sega Genesis and a Gameboy.

    We have lost our social capital, regardless if social media fosters it or not. I have a group of friends that will put on a cookout or bonfires at Masonborro once a month for our group of Christian friends to create that sense of community. Facebook is nice for staying in contact, but there’s nothing like sitting around with your friends eating random snacks everyone brought and just talking like I did last night.

    -K

  5. That question of social media fostering a social capital is interesting. On one hand, social media gives the opportunity to connect you to everyone you know. However, it is questionable how personable one can be using social media. Personally, I think that times have changed and people do not need to have constant face to face interactions to form a connection. Even online dating sites have blossomed in recent years and have been growing in popularity. Social media has formed a new type of social capital that is shaping our world today. I find that I feel more connected considering I can communicate with friends going to school in other states and even other countries. I do not believe our society is lacking social capital, but has simply evolved into a new type of social capital that is proving to be very successful today.

  6. Bowl Alone? The position of being connected with others is beneficial to ones life, and as a member of a group you are able to accomplish more. Life is more meaningful when you have friends, and someone to share happiness and trust with is something that all adults should value and strive to achieve. Personal involvement in community organizations is a great tool for networking with other individuals in your community. Social media is a great way to communicate with individuals in organizations but your personal involvement is what really counts. I also think a updated version of his book would be interesting to see how social media has cut down on personal involvement in different organizations.

  7. I have read Dr. Putnam’s book Bowling Alone and I found it incredibly interesting and I agree with him on many points. I would have to say that our social capital is changing and not necessarily for the better. Positive interactions with other people is what helps us to live healthy and fulfilled lives. In relationships we are given support and care, and most always positive reinforcement about ourselves and this is vital to being a happy person. Social media can never take the place of a real person but it sure is trying to. Social media has made our world a little smaller and allows us to connect with those far away from us but the relationships are not the same as they would be if we were together in person.

  8. I was very interested to read this blog, and this is a common topic; is social media enhancing or inhibiting on society’s social life?. Personally, i do not believe we sacrfice real life interation for social media inteaction. I believe that when this is being analyzed, many people forget about other parts of youths’ cultre. I am Australian and at home, music festivals are a staple for any youths’ summer activites. This is where social interaction occurs on a massive scale and is a very important part of Australia’s culture.

    However, i do believe we spend alot more time on the computer or in front of a game console in our spare time rather than being outside. Social interaction may be occuring online rather than in real life, although online interaction is no substitue for real life interaction. Personally, the time i spend online is usually talking to friends either on facebook or skype, which allowed access to friends and family when it is not possible to be there in person, so i do not think it is inhibiting on my personal social life.

    Courtney Sturgiss

  9. I agree that Putman should write a newer addition of Bowling Alone. Now days we have the access of several different social networks at the click of the mouse; as a result a lot of people are considering these networks as social actives they are involved. However, what they don’t realize is they are limiting their communication skills and experiences by only being connected through the internet. Part of what makes up healthy human beings is having positive relationships with people face to face. In these relationships we experience the love and support to be happy people as well as get the physical aspect of relationships that social media can’t give us.

  10. I understand that the younger generation of today feels that social media networking serves as a substitute for face to face interaction. I am 27, and although I am very acclimated to the digital world, the social media does not begin to fulfill my social needs. I do not have a FB nor a Twitter account, and I have many friends and even more acquaintances. I am not saying that these tools do not help people network better, I am just saying that I do not believe that they are a gateway to higher social status or acceptance.

  11. This truly is an interesting discussion, does the network of social media today fully fulfil our needs of social bonds? I would say both yes and no, for even though we today have access to a mind-blowingly big group off friends (I for example have about 700 friends on face book witch whom I could all contact at the same time if I desired) through social media, but the thing is I never will. In some was you could say that I have a shallow, in some ways fake social network through social media because some off the people that I on face book call my friends I will probably never write to or contact in any way! But at the same time I do also have friends that I do contact and communicate with through social media. And groups and pages I can “like” and so forth are all real and can make a difference in the “real” world with fundraisings and alike. So bottom line I do believe we can fulfil our social needs through social media although there is really no competition in actually seeing your friends in real life.

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