Does using Facebook cut giving to charity?

Getting involved with a charity or good cause on social media may make people less likely to actually donate money or other resources to it, according to new research from the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business, published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

The team invited Facebook users to initially support a cause for free by joining a group, accepting a badge or signing a petition. Then were later asked to either donate money or volunteer.

It was found that the more public the primary show of endorsement, the less likely people were to provide meaningful support later. Conversely, if they supported a cause in a more confidential way, they were more likely to give money later.

Lead author Kirk Kristofferson explained that the public endorsement satisfies the urge to look good in front of others and so reduces the urgency of giving later, something he called "slacktivism".

Professor Mark Griffiths C Psychol, a cyberpsychologist at Nottingham Trent University, said:

"This is a really interesting study although the results shouldn't be too much of a surprise as there are typically no sanctions for not giving or donating something to charity after giving initial support. Doing a good deed that doesn't financially cost anything in the presence of other online is to be expected for those that value extrinsic rewards such as social acceptance and peer praise by others.

"Genuine charity givers are likely to be altruistic and therefore are really in that small category of people that 'do a lot for charity but don't like to talk about it'. The intrinsic reward of giving is enough of a reward for them without having to 'shout about it' to others online.

"Personally, I don't think this effect is about being online as this isn't really that different from people offering to sponsor people to raise money for charitable causes in front of others, but then not paying what they owe later".

A past study at the University of Warwick also found that the more Facebook friends a person has, the less likely they are to share information about charitable causes.

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