If you're the kind of person that likes to get political on social media, a new study has found that slacktivism can help. Slacktivism, for those of you who are unfamiiar, is the practice of using your Facebook status or Twitter to promote a cause, but not actually doing anything physical, like donating, volunteering, or turning up to a protest for that cause. It's generally thought of as lazy and stupid, but a new study by PLOS ONE is now suggesting the opposite. Researchers from New York University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Oxford have found the value of slacktivism in its ability to transmit a message much further than it would be able to reach without slacktivists getting all up in grills on social media.
So before you turn your nose up at your friend on Facebook using their status as a soap box from which to talk about a social cause, consider this news. The PLOS ONE research has found that retweets actively help spread information to a wider audience, which sounds like kind of a no brainer. The research is based on data from Tweets related to the Turkish protests in 2013 (May-June) and the United for Global Change movement in May 2012, as well as hashtags around the Academy Awards in 2014 and those advocating for a higher minimum wage.
The results found that Tweets from protesters on the ground were retweeted widely by those not involved, and helped make those issues into international news, even when the traditional media hadn't been covering them. However, it's not all roses and cupcakes. The research also found that slacktivists are less likely to actually engage with a cause physically.
Also, in some cases, like the United for Global Change movement, not enough people engage online, which means the media is less likely to pick up on the story.
Overall, however, your retweets are are at least a little bit helpful when it comes to promoting political and social causes, so if you're not in the position where you can donate time or money, a social media mention can't hurt.