Study challenges 'slacktivism' among young adults - WNEM TV 5

Study challenges 'slacktivism' among young adults

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Young people who share social cause videos may be motivated to volunteer in the future, contrary to the popular image of them as “slacktivists.”

A new University of Michigan study challenges the notion of “slacktivism,” which describes young people’s political activity on social media.

 “Proponents of the slacktivism narrative argue that by participating in politics in easy ways on social media, such as a petition or sharing a video, 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 nonprofit,” said Dan Lane, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Communication Studies and the study’s lead author.

Lane and co-author Sonya Dal Cin, Associate Professor of Communication Studies, asked 178 college students to view three social cause videos and then randomly assigned them to post one of the videos. The students had the choice of either posting the videos publicly on their own Facebook timeline or anonymously on a third-party’s Facebook timeline.

Students who shared a video about a social cause publicly were more willing to volunteer than those who shared anonymously. Lane said this is initial evidence of a “reverse slacktivism effect”, showing that publicly supporting a social cause through sharing can increase, not decrease commitment to taking further action.

The study also said the effect of publicly sharing on young people’s willingness to volunteer was strongest for those who don’t normally use social media to engage in social issues. Lane said this suggests that sharing social videos on social media might be one pathway to engagement for young people who don’t typically get involved in social causes.

The findings are in the Communication & Society online journal.

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