comScore Facebook Online Activism Slacktivism Study | The Mary Sue
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Today In Shocking: Study Finds That People Who “Like” A Facebook Cause Rarely Donate Money To It

the internet is serious business

A University of California, San Diego study on online activism has found that people taking half a second to register their disapproval of some atrocity or other on Facebook doesn’t mean they’re actually interested in doing something to stop said atrocity. Wow. Never saw that one coming.

UC San Diego’s study, the largest one yet on online activism, picked apart data on Facebook’s Save Darfur campaign, which, according to the study, has “recruitment activity of 1.2 million members.” While you might think those sorts of numbers would rake in the dough, the results instead state that online campaigning raised funds amounting only to eight cents per like. On the other hand, direct mail campaigns—you know, those flyers you normally throw away—do much better. Through that medium, the campaign raised $1 million just in 2008.

Says the study, published in Sociological Science:

While both donation and recruitment behavior are socially patterned, the vast majority of Cause members recruited no one else into the Cause and contributed no money to it-suggesting that in the case of the Save Darfur campaign, Facebook conjured an illusion of activism rather than facilitating the real thing.

Though online activism may not be the greatest money-making tool, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill sociologist Zeynep Tufekci notes that has other benefits. Speaking of the 2011 Egyptian uprising, she noted: “Interpersonal communication through Facebook was a key way that people learned of the protest, and social-media users were significantly more likely to be among the crucial early protesters.” And a study conducted by Gary Hsieh of Michigan State University found that signing an e-petition increases one’s chances of donating something, though it’s usually a small amount. And—maybe this is just me being optimistic—but surely there’s something to be said for general awareness of issues. Campaigns like the one where people replaced their icons with a red equals sign in support of marriage equality might not have raised money for the relevant organizations, but if it at least got people thinking about the issue, maybe even getting out and voting on it… that’s something, right?

Still, the UC San Diego study does punch a cynical hole in the bubble of slacktivism. What’s next in Facebook’s reign of evil? Going all SkyNet and building drones?

(via: New Scientist)

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