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Dirty Altruism on Facebook: what can it tell us about prosocial and unethical intentions?

November 14 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Location: CA110 (SAC Room), Cairnes Building, NUI Galway Galway Ireland

Speaker(s): Dr Elaine Wallace

Affiliation: Performance Management

Organised by: Whitaker Institute

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When we share messages about charities on Facebook, is this a true reflection of our charitable intentions offline?  Or are we ‘dirty altruists’, using ‘doing good’ as a form of virtue signalling online, with little intention to donate offline?  Furthermore, if mentioning charities on Facebook allows us to display an ideal self to others, as a form of conspicuous consumption, are we also likely to engage in unethical forms of conspicuous consumption such as buying counterfeit goods?

Drawing on the concept of conspicuous donation behaviour, this study investigates ‘conspicuous virtue signalling’ (CVS) as a form of conspicuous consumption on Facebook. CVS occurs when an individual mentions a charity on their Facebook profile. We investigate need for uniqueness (NFU) and attention to social comparison information (ATSCI) as antecedents of two types of CVS –self-oriented (to gain intrinsic benefits) and other-oriented (to impress others). We also explore the relationship between CVS and self-esteem, as well as offline prosocial (donation to the charity) and unethical (counterfeit purchase) behaviour intentions.

Data from two studies: an Irish college survey (N = 234) and a US consumer survey (N = 296) was analysed using structural equation modeling.  Results indicate positive relationships between antecedents and components of conspicuous virtue signalling (CVS).  Moreover, we find interesting relationships between an individual’s CVS on Facebook and their intended prosocial and unethical behaviours offline. The presentation discusses these results.  It also outlines the process of using Mechanical Turk in the sampling and data collection phases of the study.

This is one of a series of seminars in the Whitaker Ideas Forum. Elaine will be representing the Performance Management research cluster.