Youngsters who share videos of social causes on Facebook might be motivated to volunteer for them in future, finds a study that challenges the popular image of them being “slacktivists”. Slacktivism is a derogatory term to describe young people’s political activity online such as signing a petition or sharing a video on social media.
“Proponents of the slacktivism narrative argue that by participating in politics in easy ways on social media, young people show their network how virtuous they are, thereby excusing themselves from engaging in more difficult offline action like attending a rally or volunteering for a non-profit,” said lead author Dan Lane, doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan, the US.
However, the new findings showed that sharing social cause videos on social media might be one pathway to engagement for young people who do not typically get involved in social causes. For the study, which appeared in the journal Information, Communication and Society, the team asked 178 college students to view three social cause videos and then randomly assigned them to post one of the videos either publicly on their own Facebook or anonymously on a third-party’s Facebook timeline.
The results showed that participants who shared a video about a social cause publicly were more willing to volunteer than those who shared anonymously. This is initial evidence of a “reverse Slacktivism effect demonstrating that publicly showing support for a social cause through sharing can increase and not decrease the commitment to taking further action, said Lane.
In addition, the effect of public sharing on young people’s willingness to volunteer was strongest for those who don’t normally use social media to engage in social issues.