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Structure and returns: toward a refined understanding of Internet use and social capital

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This study carves out a promising theoretical space to investigate how general and specific Internet use may facilitate various returns of social capital by separating the structural embeddedness of social capital from the returns of social capital. Drawing on a randomly sampled survey of adult residents in a major US city, we examine how general Internet use, interacted with network diversity, contributes to various returns of social capital: bonding and bridging, online and offline. We further unpack general Internet use to specific Internet use and explore their relations with the returns of social capital. The results show that general Internet use is positively related to all the online bonding, online bridging, and offline social capital returns, whereas specific Internet use (i.e., informational, participatory, and recreational) is only positively related to online but not offline returns of social capital. Network diversity moderates the relationship between general Internet use and offline returns of social capital.
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Keywords: Internet use; offline; online; social capital; social network

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Radio-Television-Film, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, USA 2: Department of Strategic, Legal and Management Communication, Howard University, Washington, DC, USA 3: Department of Media Communication, Sungshin Women’s University, Seoul, South Korea

Publication date: August 24, 2019

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