Social networks and social capital

The growth of social networks such Facebook and Twitter have raised an interesting question.  Is virtual social capital the same as in person social capital?  Can social networking promote health?

Health researchers have long known that social capital is connected to improved health outcomes.  While some types of social networks can be detrimental to health, participating in a gang, for example. Participating in social organizations, churches, knowing your neighbors, having close relationships with family member and friends are generally associated with fewer risk behaviors and lower risks of morbidity and mortality.  Social isolation is bad for health.

Does Facebook offer the same protections?  Are those wall postings, pokes and updates about others virtual farming activities also protecting health?   So far, we don’t know.  There is some evidence that spending  too many hours sitting at a computer is bad for both physical and mental health. But as yet, we have no studies on whether regular contacts, done in moderation, promote, inhibit or are irrelevant for health.

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