I’m currently undertaking a PhD by Research in social psychology, as part of the Social Influence and Social Change Lab at Flinders University. My research focuses on when and why people take action to achieve social change, with a particular focus on online activism and social media. Social media has become increasingly popular as a platform for collective action – prominent examples include the viral Me Too and Black Lives Matter movements – which has the power to shape and change the world we live in by targeting our laws, policies, and public opinion. However, some scholars deride online action as ‘virtue-signalling’ or ‘slacktivism’, ineffective action that is designed to make the actor look or feel good but ultimately detracts from their participation in more effortful but more impactful offline actions. In contrast, others argue that participation in online action promotes identification and commitment to the cause and facilitates further, offline engagement. The role of online action as a detractor or a facilitator of social change is therefore contentious. My thesis will address whether different people are driven by different motives for action – e.g., genuine passion for the cause versus desire for social approval – and whether the underlying motivation plays a role in determining a range of outcomes such as the type and frequency of action taken, whether action is sustained over time, and how the individual’s actions influence those of people around them.
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