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Sharing beyond Slacktivism: the effect of socially observable prosocial media sharing on subsequent offline helping behavior

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New forms of youth social and political participation have been termed ‘Slacktivism’ – low-cost online forms of social engagement that decrease subsequent offline participation. Previous experimental work has provided support for a ‘Slacktivism effect,’ but it is unclear if this theoretical model applies to youth media sharing on social networking sites. This study uses a novel sharing simulation paradigm to test the effect of publicly vs. anonymously sharing a social cause video on subsequent willingness to engage in offline helping behavior. Results show that publicly (as compared to anonymously) sharing a selected video on one’s own Facebook wall led to a greater willingness to volunteer for an issue-related cause. Participants’ existing use of social media for engagement in social issues/causes moderated the effect, such that only participants low in use of social media for social engagement were susceptible to the sharing manipulation. Implications for reconceptualizing media sharing as a unique form of online participation beyond ‘Slacktivism’ are discussed.
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Keywords: Young people; civic engagement; impression management; psychology; sharing; social media

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Communication Studies, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA

Publication date: November 2, 2018

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