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Bonding, bridging, and linking social capital and social media use: How hyperlocal social media platforms serve as a conduit to access and activate bridging and linking ties in a time of crisis

Abstract

Social media is changing the narrative during crisis events. It has facilitated citizen-led emergency dispatch and rescue, information sharing and communication between loved ones in the moments before, during and after a disaster. Researchers of social capital have found that bonding, bridging, and linking social capital can lead to resilient outcomes. With increased use of social media on a day-to-day basis and during a crisis, we still know little about the association between social capital and online social media use. Controlling for demographic characteristics and earthquake intensity, I investigate the association bonding, bridging and linking social capital and hyperlocal social media use following the earthquake and its aftershocks. Using a quantitative cross-sectional longitudinal study across 121 Nextdoor online neighborhoods in California’s Napa Valley region across 42 days in August and September of 2014 (N = 3570), I find that bridging and linking social capital led to more online communication via Nextdoor. This finding comes with an important implication, namely, that social media can serve as a primary source of recourse for individuals and communities following a disaster. Social media platforms provide a conduit for accessing and activating bridging and linking ties that can expedite collective action in a time of need. Communities should consider policies that increase levels of social capital, well as social media platforms that can activate social ties when they are needed most.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Data were provided by senior-level managers from Nextdoor and aggregated to the Nextdoor neighborhood-level to protect the privacy of its users.

  2. 2.

    The USGS “Did You Feel It? (DYFI) collects information from people who felt an earthquake and creates maps that show what people experienced and the extent of damage (USGS 2017).” Individuals can submit a report by going to https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eventpage/unknown#impact_tellus.

  3. 3.

    Values of total online activity exceeding the 90th percentile were excluded from the visual to eliminate extreme outliers, which reduced the population of cases from 3,570 to 3,217 and the number of Nextdoor neighborhoods from 121 to 117.

  4. 4.

    See Sherwood (2004), Talk About Country Clubs: Ideology and the Reproduction of Privilege.

  5. 5.

    Technical note: Data were downloaded from the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program website. Data were reported in points with latitude and longitude, zip code, MMI (the intensity reported), and the number of responses for each case. These points were interpolated with an Empirical Bayesian Kriging in ArcGIS Pro, data points were then transformed into polygon contours, and those contours were spatially joined with each ND neighborhood for further analysis (see Fig. 3).

  6. 6.

    Cross-sectional studies consist of data collected at one point in time (Bourque 2004), and can be contrasted with longitudinal designs, where additional data can be collected over different periods of time (Menard 2004).

  7. 7.

    A phenomenon defined in the Oxford Dictionary as “discouraging or deterring effect on the behavior of an individual or group”.

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Page-Tan, C. Bonding, bridging, and linking social capital and social media use: How hyperlocal social media platforms serve as a conduit to access and activate bridging and linking ties in a time of crisis. Nat Hazards 105, 2219–2240 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-020-04397-8

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Keywords

  • Social capital
  • Bonding
  • Bridging
  • Linking
  • Social media
  • Napa Valley
  • Earthquake
  • Nextdoor
  • Hyperlocal