Impediments to and Affordances of Creating Trust over the Internet: The Case of Israeli Youth*

Impediments to and Affordances of Creating Trust over the Internet: The Case of Israeli Youth*

Oren Golan (New York University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-901-9.ch006

Abstract

In spite of obstacles to trust-building over the Internet, as well as continuous warnings on the part of educators, parents and social movements about the dangers of unsupervised web surfing by children and adolescents, an avid culture of youth has emerged over the Internet and created spaces for trust-building. This paper aims to display the key impediments encountered in the formation of trust relations over the Internet among youth, and the ways that these obstacles are engaged. Observations and conversations with Israeli adolescents yielded three intertwined impediments to online trust: (1) Lies and truths. (2) Anonymity/Disclosure (3) Transparency/Opacity. Uncovering the ways that youth create and maintain trust may illuminate our understanding of how youth communicate and fraternize in today’s Information and Communication Technology society. Basing itself on these findings, this study contributes to the understanding of challenges and bridges for instilling social integration through computer-mediated-communication (CMC).
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Introduction

The Internet has been lauded for its ability to foster interaction among innumerable individuals. However, this interaction among strangers has been accompanied by apprehension and uneasiness. This concern has been magnified in the case of children and youth, who are often considered susceptible to adult harassment and are viewed as requiring adult and state protection.

In spite of continuous warnings on the part of educators, parents and social movements about the dangers of unsupervised web surfing by children and adolescents, an avid culture of youth has emerged over the Internet, whose tracts have created spaces for trust-building.

In sociological literature, trust1 has been perceived as a major building block of social solidarity and society's various productions. Furthermore, trust has been seen as a precondition for securing economic relations and for coping with conflict (Durkheim, 1949; Barber, 1983; Gambetta, 1988; Sztompka, 1999). Trust may be defined as “confidence in the reliability of a person or system” (Giddens, 1990). Among scholars, social trust has been linked to a number of positive outcomes. For example, trust has been linked to social solidarity and cohesion, to strong economic performance (Yamagishi and Yamagishi, 1994; Fukuyama, 1995) and is viewed as a source of support for democratic ideals (Muller and Seligson, 1994; Cleary and Stokes, 2006). In theories of social capital, social trust is both an outcome and a cause of high levels of civic involvement (Putnam, 2000; Kelly, 2008) and also curbs non-normative behavior.

Early studies of the Internet expressed disbelief in the possibility of creating and maintaining interpersonal and collective trust due to the inhuman lack of face to face interaction (Kiesler, Siegel and McGuire, 1984; Beninger, 1987; Heim, 1992; Stoll, 1995). Later on, with the rise of the Internet and the intense activity it engendered, social scientists and intellectuals noted the rise of online trust, occasionally as a surprising finding, and measured the outcomes of these ties in the exchange of individual goods, production of public goods, the existence of stable social networks, online community building, and the formation of social norms over the net (see Silverstone, 1999; Parks and Floyd, 1996; Kollock and Smith, 1999; Baym, 2000; Raymond, 2001; Dutton and Shepherd, 2006). Researchers also delineated the paradoxical emergence of trust within online cultures that foster deviant behavior (e.g. mass infringements on copyrights, plagiarism), and is best illustrated in the case of Hackers (Taylor, 1999). These studies contributed to an understanding of the new forms and dynamics of trust over the Internet, but were less concerned with the ways trust is created among specific social sub-groups, cultures and social categories. In this study, I aim to focus on the generation of trust among youth.

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