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In the book Bowling Alone, author Robert D. Putnam argues there has been a reversal in Americans' participation in community life, and he calls this lack of participation a loss in social capital needed to build a trusting, strong society. He also argues that there are far too many causes for this decline in social interaction to create a clear cause and effect analysis. Yet, about 25 percent of the loss of social capital can be attributed to the development of electronic entertainment.
Prior to the mid-20th century, people still needed to socialize to find entertainment. Entertainment was found in ballparks, music halls, and theaters. Today, electronic technology allows us to be entertained "in private, even utterly alone" (217). Hence, one of his arguments is that the development of electronic technology has certainly helped contribute to our loss of social capital; however, it's not the only contributing factor.
He further argues that while electronic technology such as the Internet certainly has the "potential" for further decreasing social interaction, it will not "automatically offset the decline in more conventional forms of social capital" (180). Our task now is to figure out how we can use electronic technology, such as "computer-mediated communication" to enhance "real communities" without "being seduced by the mirage of otherworldly 'virtual community'" (180).
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