An Australian researches took the effort to ask people who “Liked” a cause on Facebook how engaged they really were.
More than 90 percent had signed an online petition or shared stories on social media, but less than a third had donated money – compared to almost two-thirds of those signed up to the group’s newsletter.
Only 13 percent of Facebook fans donated food or other goods to asylum seekers, and only 2.3 percent had helped the group fundraise, compared to 6.2 percent of newsletter subscribers.
“Those who had signed up to the newsletter were more likely to be engaged in more direct action towards issues of asylum,” Ms McKay notes in the study, published in the Australian Journal of Psychology.
She suggests supporting a pro-asylum seeker group in a less public way – privately signing up to a newsletter, rather than ‘liking’ their page on Facebook – is a form of “brand management” or conflict avoidance, with polls showing most Australians would prefer asylum seekers were sent away.
As for those who do like the page on Facebook, so many of them identified in her survey as having ‘left political views’ – three-quarters – that it could be a part of the Facebook “echo chamber, in which individuals are exposed only to information from like-minded individuals”.
It remains to be figured out how groups can effectively turn ‘likes’ into real action, however.
“When the cost of engaging action is low, people do little more than engage in token support.”
This is why Labour and the left in New Zealand continue to be confused at the outcome of polls and elections. Because “everywhere they go” they hear nothing but overwhelming anti-Key sentiment. It feeds on itself, and they actually think this is going gangbusters.