Social isolation is a reality in America. It is estimated that the amount of socially isolated Americans has risen over the decades nearly 25% of the population (Harvard Kennedy School). People are not as involved with others and their community anymore. One way to address this, is to increase your social capital. Social capital gives value to all of our support systems and networks in which we are a part of. Social capital can provide information flows, norms reciprocity, collective action, and a change in mentality. (Harvard Kennedy School) Increasing our social capital strengthens our networks, and can lead to increased support. People may gain assistance in a crisis, learn of new job or educational opportunities, or even help drive forward a large movement. These relationships can be of mutual benefit.
Social capital is really our support networks at works. Increased social capital is really an increase in the social support available. Social support refers to the support we get from the other people in our lives (Schneider 2012). Our natural support systems help us deal with stress and cope with life events, even in the day to day. Simply knowing a lot of people and having a lot of contacts does not mean that there is a strong social network in our lives.
The Harvard Kennedy School offers a list of over 100 starter suggestions on how to increase one’s social capital. It ranges from volunteering, to holding a neighborhood barbeque, to offering to serve on a town committee. Increasing social capital can be beneficial for everyone. Being socially connected with each other has benefits. Being alone and isolated can be stressors themselves, so those who are socially integrated may suffer less stressors in the first place. Also, those who have social support may cope better with stressful situations. (Schneider 2012) It may be worth it for all of us to take some time, and consider really connecting with others around us, as we may all benefit.
Harvard Kennedy School. Social Capital. Retrieved from http://www.hks.harvard.edu/programs/saguaro/about-social-capital/what-you-can-do
Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (Eds.) (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.