Balancing Online and Offline Social Capital

“Reflect on a time when you were part of an event (on the Internet) that was trying to establish social capital. Given our class discussion, how do you think that event could’ve been improved or gone better?”

Since I’ve been at Stanford, I’ve had countless friends create apps, launch startups, and attempt to publicize their kickstarter campaigns on the Internet. It seems as though everyone who catches the entreprenurial bug here uses to Internet (and Facebook events in particular) to advertise their big professional moves and try to gain support. However, I think that over time, I’ve grown more and more inattentive to these types of posts. When different friends are inviting me to like their pages for their new startup or inviting me to donate to their fundraising campaigns, it’s hard for me to get fired up about any single invitation. Because it’s so easy to create community online, there’s a danger in overusing the Internet to foster community, and this overuse dilutes the Internet’s effectiveness.

The Internet lacks a personal touch that I find highly compelling for interpersonal communication, especially when trying to gather support or share a passion with a friend. I’ve ignored most of the start-up-y plugs that most of my “friends” post of Facebook, but when a friend of a friend recently sent me a personalized, handwritten invitation to the launch party for his new app and included branded merchandise for the app, I felt much more compelled to attend the event and care about his new venture. I think that personalization and old fashioned communication and community formation will never go out of style, and in this day and age, taking the time to promote something or create a community offline goes a long long way.

I don’t mean to bash on using the Internet as a community builder or promotional tool. It’s obviously too easy and powerful a tool to ignore. But I think there is something to be said for balancing offline and online community and using Facebook and old fashioned communication to get the job done.