Social capital does not always result in positive ends. This fact embodies the concept of negative social capital. For starters, the negative effects of social capital can be understood by examining the difference between bonding social capital and bridging social capital.
Bonding social capital is a process in which like-minded individuals or groups and organizations form a collective social network to increase prospects for beneficial gains. This process also reinforces homogeneity within a community.
On the other hand, bridging social capital reinforces heterogeneity or social inclusion within a community by building and maintaining a social network composed of a diverse group of individuals and organizations.
Between the bonding and the bridging processes, much of the negative effects of social capital can be attributed to the former. However, the latter can also bring forth some negative offshoots. This article lists down several examples of negative social capital for further illustrations.
Bonding: The negative effects of social capital
1. Nepotism and Cronyism
Trust and collaborations within a social network are two of the defining characteristics of social capital. However, despite the positive connotations attached to these two, they also provide the groundwork for nepotism and cronyism.
High levels of trust toward selected individuals or organizations can lead to preferential treatment and partiality, thus translating to nepotism. The same levels of trust coupled with established collaborative relationships with individuals or organizations can lead to their appointment to a position of authority, thus translating to cronyism.
Both nepotism and cronyism are not entirely bad. Most of the time, however, they correspond to undemocratic practices in the government due to partisanship, poor hiring decisions in organizations resulting to employment of incompetent individuals, and failure in leadership because of impartiality.
2. Herd Behavior
The same high levels of trust and established collaborative relationships within a social network can promote herd mentality or herd behavior.
Herd behavior is characterized by the tendency to think and act in the same way as the majority of people within the community. Although most individuals are predisposed to take cues from others because of inherent sociability, this inclination can also lead to poor decisions with detrimental consequences.
The strong bonds that permeate within a social network create a conducive environment for herding. Some of the negative examples of herd behavior include risky investment decisions resulting in economic bubbles, pervasive consumerism, trial by publicity, and religious and political occultism or fanaticism.
3. Crime Proliferation
One of the most discussed negative effects of social capital relates to the prevalence of criminal activities due to the proliferation of criminal organizations.
In several studies, the concept of negative social capital has been used to explain the emergence and proliferation of gangs within a particular community. Due to the process of bonding social capital, individual criminals and criminal organizations usually form social networks as a consequence of social isolation and to establish a collective stance against law enforcers and the greater community.
4. Economic Disruptions
Individuals or organizations can create alliances based on shared interests. These alliances would give them substantial influence or bargaining powers over their competitors or a particular entity such as the government or the entire market itself, thus leading to a market failure.
Mass strike involving labor unions or transport groups can paralyze business and economic activities. Connivance between two firms resulting in duopolies or other forms of collusion could lead to unchallenged market control. Businesses or even other organizations with questionable actives might seek alignment with government officials to secure their operations in exchange for bribes.
The concept of social capital suggests that disruptive alliances are formed due to the economic value, easy access to resources, and high levels of trust and collaboration that come from social networks.
Bridging: The negative effects of social capital
1. Privacy Breach
Social capital can promote the over-sharing of information that might be too personal for others. This is because interrelationships within a social network correspond to unrestricted flow of information through multiple channels.
A bridging type of social capital reinforces heterogeneity within a social network. This means that anyone, even someone with malicious intention, can be a member of that network. In other words, high levels o trust and inclusiveness can open vulnerabilities in private information.
Examples of privacy breach due to social capital include corporate espionage and insider trading, as well as other forms of intentional and unintentional privacy rights violations.
Online-enabled social networks such as Facebook and Twitter have changed the way contents with embedded information are created and disseminated. Negative social capital is very much present in thee so-called online-enabled social networking.
Note that before the advent of social networking sites, content creation and dissemination were limited to media organizations, governments, businesses, and non-profit organizations, including think-thanks and advocacy groups. The arrival of Facebook and Twitter has ushered in the era of participatory culture in which the public takes part in the production and dissemination of contents.
Of course, there is a downside to participatory culture. The unregulated creation and dissemination of contents, coupled with unrestricted flow of information create more opportunities for misinformation. Black propaganda, false advertisements, fake news, unscientific claims, and medically false information are some of the examples.
3. Cross-cultural Contamination
Interactions between two or more cultures or groups of people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds have become inevitable in this day and age of globalization and digital communication. However, some of these interactions can exemplify negative social capital.
One of the negative effects of social capital through bridging is cross-cultural contamination in which supposed exclusive or unique norms and values become blurred within a particular culture or dispersed across different cultures.
A specific example of the aforementioned is cultural appropriation a dominant culture adopts elements of a minority culture and used them outside of their original cultural context. These elements that might have deeper meaning to the originating culture are often reduced to fads or even exploited.
Cross-cultural interaction also leads to conversion. While this phenomenon helps in promoting heterogeneity, it can lead further to the death of a particular culture. For example, the arrival of modernity in farming regions have changed the worldview of the younger generations, thus abandoning their traditional way of lives to embrace novel ones.
Conclusion: The effects of negative social capital
The concept of negative social capital is somehow hard to grasp simply because the original concept of social capital itself is very appealing. However, as discussed above, the negative effects of social capital are apparently familiar. It is also worth noting that some of these negative effects also emerge from the competition between bonding social capital and bridging social capital.