I mentioned in a previous post about going through a Facebook crisis, and I’m beginning to appreciate how much of that experience was based out of social capital. Is there a limit to how much social capital one can build before you lose social capital somewhere else?
It made me think whether there is a limit to how much social capital an individual could have. As much as information and communication technologies (ICTs) have reduced transactional costs and allowed us to connect more easily, ICTs have not changed the fact the actual amount of time we have.
In our readings, social network theorists seemingly admit the difficulty in actually measuring social capital. As a result, the measurement they do have equate to socioeconomic measures.
For this exercise, I’m stealing from economics and considering the issue of opportunity cost – you perform an action at the cost of not performing another.
Thus, it makes sense that at a certain point of saturation, the effort to create more social capital will be at the expense of not creating it somewhere else, and possibly even losing it.
Upfront, this is seemingly supported by Kadushin’s suggestion that a person’s maximum effective network size is about 150.
However, the nature of social capital makes it impossible to determine the point of social capital equilibrium.
Kadushin indicates that social capital can be accessed by two mechanism in a social network.
The first mechanism is by resources made available to an individual as a product of his/her social network. For this mechanism, my hypothesis makes sense, as the resources are dependent on the maintenance of an individual’s social network.
The second mechanism is accessing resources created by “community”.
This is where my hypothesis fails. From one community to another, social capital (which could be wealth, influence, or reputation, etc.) will differ. For example, the social capital I have in my professional community is possibly based out of my clinical expertise, as opposed to my MACT community, which is based out of my beer-consumption expertise.
Jokes aside, the opportunity cost of these activities will differ, so identifying a point of social capital equilibrium is daunting considering we exist in different communities.
However, this reflection does point to an economy of time and how much time we choose to invest in a safety network as opposed to an effectancy network.
This weekend, the choice is easy. I’ll the social capital will go to my mom.
Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms!
(Say hi to your mother for me – Adam Sandberg as Mark Wahlberg talking to Animals)