Australians are using their social media profiles to make their voices heard on topical issues - and surprising results show it's not Gen Ys who are the most active, according to the latest Sensis Social Media Report.
Known as 'slacktivism', using your social media account to make a visible gesture - such as changing the colour of your profile picture to support a cause - is becoming increasingly popular among Australians.
Sensis General Manager Digital, Alice Mentiplay said: “This kind of ‘activism’ is much more of a female domain, with half the women surveyed saying they had made some kind of public gesture via social media, compared to only 26% of men.”
Almost four in 10 people (39%) have used social media to support or discuss topical issues or events, and the activity is engaged in by people aged 30-39 (44%) and 40-49 (49%) more than other age groups, including those aged 18-29 (39%).
The 2016 study, from digital expert Sensis, surveyed 800 Australian consumers, 1,000 SMBs and 100 large businesses and found the overwhelming motivation for engaging with causes on social media was because it 'was an easy way to show my support' (76%).
“We’re all likely to have seen a coloured ribbon, or coloured filter on a profile image in our news feeds on various social media platforms. Many of us have also likely felt a sense of pride from being a part of one of these movements.
“A post, like, or retweet is such an easy gesture to show support, similar to wearing a wristband or a t-shirt. But the question remains as to whether these forms of armchair activism actually make a difference in the real world or not?” Mentiplay said.
The report found that the desire to be heard or make a difference has been influential in people’s decision to express support for a cause – 60% of respondents cited this as their motivation.
Conversely, just under a quarter of people surveyed (23%) felt that posting about issues on social media didn't make a difference. And many of the people who said they didn't support issues and causes via social media stated it was because they were worried about what other people would think of their opinions (42%).
“Despite people referring to this activity derisively, there is some evidence to suggest that ‘peripheral’ users in online protest networks actually turn protests into social movements and can lead to further action from those participating in so-called slacktivism,” Mentiplay said.
“It’s also of interest that it’s not the ‘digital native’ generation that tends to be engaging in this kind of social media activity, but those who are slightly older and have come to social media as adults.”