Date of Award

Spring 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Sociology & Criminal Justice

Committee Director

Scott R. Maggard

Committee Member

Dianne C. Carmody

Committee Member

Ingrid P. Whitaker


This thesis examines how using social networking sites (SNS) is correlated with levels of civic and political engagement of college students at Old Dominion University. Past research has yielded mixed results on the link between online social capital and civic and political engagement. Major limitations of past research include grouping together social networking sites that are substantially different and not considering these sites’ impact on the different forms of social capital. This thesis first examines how social networking site preference, intensity of use, and motives for use factor into an individual’s online social capital. Secondly, this thesis looks at how online bridging, bonding, and maintained social capital influence an individual’s level of civic and political engagement.

Results from an internet-based survey showed Instagram users had the highest level of online social capital. As expected, respondents who used SNS with greater intensity with the purpose to gather information had higher levels of online social capital. Additionally, individuals who had higher levels of online social capital reported being more civically and politically active. These findings contributed to the limited body of research focusing on SNS and online social capital and provide valuable knowledge about the link between using social networking sites and participating in political and civic activities. Future research should build on this research expand the scope of this study by sampling a broader sample, further validating the measures used, and comparing various forms of social networking sites.


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