Understanding 'slacktivism' psychology: When online support fizzles out before making a difference

Source: 1News

The Australian bushfires struck a chord with many people both in New Zealand and around the world, prompting events and fundraisers - many of which were organised on social media.

But what happens when people who say they support your cause fail to follow through?

You get what’s called “Slacktivism” – a situation where a person supports a cause online by doing things such as liking or sharing a post or event but then failing to put in an effort that generates real change.

For example, more than 1,000 people said they’d attend a fundraiser in Wellington for the Australian bush fires but only approximately 100 showed up.

Psychologist Dr Danny Osborne told 1 NEWS slactivism is becoming all too familiar.

“Unfortunately, it’s pretty common,” Dr Osborne said.

“If you wind up sharing a post or something it actually decreases the likelihood that you'll engage in more effort or forms of collective action later on.

“So liking a post satisfies important need based motives - you feel like you're part of the group.

“Once you've satisfied that need, it decreases your motivation to do other things.”

Another example included a Facebook post by one concerned Kiwi who wanted to do her bit with an auction for the recent bushfires and garnered more than 1,000 likes with her idea.

But the event had to be cancelled after ticket sales flopped, leaving the organiser who didn’t want to be identified admitting she felt “gutted” it fell through despite knowing it was out of her hands.

It’s a sentiment shared by others trying to help, including event organiser Raven Maeder.

“As an organiser, it takes so much time and love and energy from the people who are putting the organising effort in,” Maeder said.

“Campaigns take a lot of work to put in so its a lot of commitment.”

But despite the increase in slacktivism, Maeder says there will always be people with big hearts ready to make a difference.

“The only way we can really achieve meaningful change is by showing up in person and having bodies on the street.”