Generosity online

What’s your experience of people’s behaviour on social networking sites? Does it closely match offline behaviour, or does membership of such sites encourage philanthropic tendencies?

A new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project suggests that generosity is very prevalent online and that regular users of social networks encounter far more positive than negative behaviour. Around two-thirds of those surveyed identified uplifting experiences of others’ behaviour online, and only around 5% felt that unkind or anti-social behaviour was more common. Fully three-quarters of respondents who used such sites claimed to have observed generosity and helpfulness, although many of these had occasionally witnessed less positive aspects too. Generally, though, the survey appears to support the notion that social networking sites, by their very nature, attract the more altruistic and social-minded members of society and/or encourage a greater degree of selflessness than we are used to encountering in our offline lives. Whuffie, it seems, is alive and well!

For those of us committed to spreading charity and goodwill through the medium of the Internet this is encouraging news. It also reinforces the value of studying social capital as a means of better understanding what motivates people and how to access their potential for generosity and humanitarianism.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project, operated by the Pew Research Center, studies how the Internet impacts on people’s everyday lives, through their “families, communities, work and home, daily life, education, health care, and civic and political life”.

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Saturday, February 11th, 2012 Internet
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