Social Capital and the ways in which People Amass it
Dystopian societies often feature tales based on people’s entire lives being upheld by their social capital. Although modern day may not completely mirror these tactics, we look at the ways…
●23rd March 2023
As a result of the ways in which the world is set-up, our interactions with others for the most part rely greatly on the social capital which we have built within our circles. Social capital is defined as the networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society, enabling that society to function effectively. Colloquially, social capital has come to mean much more than that. Social capital permeates the ways in which people are regarded, the kindness that they are believed to deserve and also the kind of mistakes they are allowed to make. In dystopian societies mainly featured in books, social capital also affects a person’s income and the quality of life they are afforded to live. Some of these dystopian theories may reflect real life, although not as blatantly as portrayed in the books.
Belonging to society means contributing to it and thus, there are so many ways in which we give power to social capital and its regulations. Between the genders, social capital differentiates in the ways in which it can be amassed. Women can build social capital by being conventionally attractive and knowing the ‘right’ people. Often, men can build social capital by amassing wealth. Some aspects of luck also play a part, such as going to prestigious school under scholarship or finding favor with the right people in your place of employment. Social capital can feel very arbitrary, so it is hard to calculate how exactly it generates, who shapes it and how the people who benefit from it find their gains. In such cases, it is also difficult to see how people who have none are affected by the phenomenon as well.
I see social capital play a huge part in the interactions carried out between peers through social media. People who have formed connections along the road with many others become almost ‘untouchable’ in a sense. Their opinions are more likely to be agreed with, even when these same thoughts have been said by other people. Even when they are wrong or say things that are offensive, people are likely to make excuses for them or address their wrong-doings nicely, making sure to not offend them even while giving correction. Most shockingly, they could state an opinion and get praised for it while another person with less social capital gets chastised for the same thought. During the election season, we saw a lot of people only be able to call out bad behavior from those that they are not close to. Meanwhile, many of the popular people on social media got away with propagating the harmful status quo which led the sitting political party to marginalize many others. For example, the founder of Naira-land was called out for allowing an ad that disparaged Igbo people to run on the website. It was only after the elections when the damage had been done that he came out to ‘apologize’ for the ad. Meanwhile, he is still mutuals with many people who claim to find such behavior abhorrent.
Unfortunately, social capital causes a group of people to become revered and borderline worshipped. This means that they are often able to get away with downright injustice or make easy excuses for introduced chaos. As a people who pride themselves on being committed to doing the right things, it is important to not allow yourself become sucked away into all the biased treatment that social capital gives to these select few. Uphold your personal integrity above all. Always interrogate your true feelings about a person, rather than propping them up because they have an established connection to others that you may feel are important. When you possess the ability to form independent thoughts about people that are not beholden on social rules, you begin to see people as what they are—flawed. You understand that not one person is above foolish behavior and that there is a difference between being ignorant and actually causing harm. Even when intention may be innocent, impact is still a very real thing.
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