This post is not actually about my bowling abilities. Instead, I will be attempting to apply the study described in the “Bowling Online” article by Steinfeld, et al. to my own experience with an internal social network. I have recently started working for Her Campus, an online magazine for collegiate women. As an member of the Her Campus team, I am part of the official “Google group”, which allows all team members to communicate with one another. I am also part of the Her Campus network on Facebook, which requires having an @hercampus.com email address. I have only been a part of Her Campus for three weeks, which is less than the six week mark used in the Steinfeld et al. study, but I will describe my experience so far using the five dimensions of social capital scales.
Bonding Social Capital: Am I able to find emotional and other types of support through my ties with Her Campus?
I have really only been in close contact with two other Her Campus members. One is my boss and is one of the founders of the company. The other is a fellow Bowdoin student, a junior, that also works for Her Campus. Would I feel comfortable asking either of them for $500 if no one else I knew could lend it to me? No, probably not. I feel that I only have a professional relationship with them- the only personal information we know about each other comes from our brief biographies on the website. However, I think there are other Her Campus members that are definitely able to find support through this internal network. I have read posts from one blogger on the site, Chandler, that is extremely enthusiastic about the Her Campus community. One of Chandler’s blog posts describing her experience at the Her Campus launch party in Boston demonstrated that she really has found support through other Her Campus members. The day of the party, Chandler was talking to one of the founders online and saying how disappointed she was that she couldn’t come to the party because she didn’t have anywhere to stay. The founder, Windsor, replied “Come!!”. So Chandler did. She got on a bus to Boston and upon arrival went to Windsor’s apartment. Windsor provided her with clothes for the night and a place to stay, and Chandler had a great time. Windsor and Chandler had never met in person before, but Windsor was willing to inconvenience herself to support a community member. I do not think I have been a member of Her Campus long enough to have had this kind of experience, but hopefully I will be able to connect with the rest of the team.
Bridging Social Capital- Ability to Access Expertise: Am I able to ask people for information or help?
I can definitely answer yes to this one. My boss, Annie, has been incredibly helpful in my transition to working on the website. She has explained everything I need to do, and I know that if I ever have any questions I can just send her a quick e-mail. I would feel comfortable contacting any of the Her Campus members with any questions or concerns.
Bridging Social Capital – Interest in Global Connections: Do I think I am part of a global, connected community, and am I interested in other cultures?
I will define “global” to mean other states and colleges around the country, although there are some Her Campus members that are studying abroad in foreign countries. I can also answer yes to this question. Her Campus is set up so that while some content is national and applies to all users, there are also college-specific branches with content aimed for those students. This content is still accessible to anyone who visits the Her Campus website, and I have read some of the college-specific stories as well. I have learned interesting facts about the people and social scenes at schools that I never would have looked into. I am part of a network that spans across the United States, and I enjoy reading about the happenings at other colleges.
Bridging Social Capital- Access to New People: Do I come into contact with new people?
As mentioned before, I have exchanged emails and messages with two Her Campus members that I’d never met before. However, I have not really had personalized interactions with anyone else from the site. I would put a “maybe” in response to this dimension. If I wanted to, I could friend Team members on Facebook or leave comments on their blogs. However, I feel that Her Campus’s internal network does not really allow everyone to get to know each other. While some members are definitely able to make new, close friends, I don’t know if that’s possible for everyone.
Bridging Social Capital- Citizenship: Am I willing to “give back” to Her Campus?
Yes, I am willing to give back to Her Campus. I think the website is a great tool for college students and am really proud to be working for it. I enjoy completing my tasks and am planning on remaining a member of the Team for the next few years.
As in the Steinfeld et al. study, I too reported higher scores on the bridging social capital scales than the bonding social capital scale. Overall, I think I have already increased my social capital through being a part of Her Campus, and I think I will continue to gain valuable resources during my involvement.