An investigation into emerging social relations among rural young people : the relationship between social networking and individual, family and community social capital

  • Anne Marie Rice

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    As internet use increases more and more people are becoming familiar with new technologies such as social networking. This has resulted in a reliance on the internet to create and sustain friendships. These online networks can comprise of many members and among teenagers frequently range from several hundred to over at house and online friends. Essentially this involves being friends with anyone anywhere and frequently online friends are not known to each other in person. This study explores if creating and sustaining online friendship impacts on the social capital found in place-based family and friend relationships? Social capital refers to the resources obtained from connections with others such as emotional support or information.

    This thesis focuses on young people’s friendship and family relationships in the social networking era. The research is based in the small rural area of Kilkeel (Co.Down) in Northern Ireland. A qualitative methodology is employed which allows young people and their families to give a rich description of their lives. The study builds on recent work in social capital which shows that young people are active agents in creating their own social capital. It also breaks new ground showing that social networking is largely a social pursuit in terms of family social capital, an extremely gendered activity and makes a positive contribution to social capital for rural residents. These findings are discussed in relation to the literature and the need for further research. Of particular interest is the findings’ relevance to policy makers: social networking is nota substitute for the social capital produced by in person interaction, it can provide new opportunities to foster ‘good relations’ where there are social divisions, it is an ideal focus for inter-generational-technology projects, and it is under used by rural fathers.The inadequacy of the father-son relationship as a social support for young males is highlighted and this may have specific relevance to those tasked with improving male health and wellbeing including suicide prevention.1 Good relations is the term used in Northern Ireland to describe the approach toward
    Date of AwardJul 2014
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Queen's University Belfast
    SupervisorRuth McAreavey (Supervisor) & Aileen Stockdale (Supervisor)

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