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.”

The full report can be found here.

Percentage of social media users to show support for a cause

TOTAL

39%

Male

26%

Female

50%

18-29

39%

30-39

44%

40-49

49%

50-64

35%

65+

27%

TOTAL

39%

Male

26%

Female

50%

18-29

39%

30-39

44%

40-49

49%

50-64

35%

65+

27%

What motivated you to use social media in that way?

Male

Female

18-29

30-39

40-49

50-64

65+

TOTAL

All my friends did so

3%

5%

6%

5%

0%

3%

12%

4%

I felt pressured to do so

2%

1%

1%

0%

2%

0%

7%

1%

To make my voice heard

65%

58%

45%

57%

74%

74%

33%

60%

It was an easy way to show my support

78%

75%

68%

72%

82%

76%

82%

76%

I felt passionate about the cause

74%

79%

80%

72%

82%

74%

82%

77%

I thought it would make a difference

48%

58%

48%

47%

60%

69%

43%

55%

None of the above

0%

3%

8%

2%

0%

0%

0%

2%

All my friends did so

3%

I felt pressured to do so

2%

To make my voice heard

65%

It was an easy way to show my support

78%

I felt passionate about the cause

74%

I thought it would make a difference

48%

None of the above

0%

All my friends did so

5%

I felt pressured to do so

1%

To make my voice heard

58%

It was an easy way to show my support

75%

I felt passionate about the cause

79%

I thought it would make a difference

58%

None of the above

3%

All my friends did so

6%

I felt pressured to do so

1%

To make my voice heard

45%

It was an easy way to show my support

68%

I felt passionate about the cause

80%

I thought it would make a difference

48%

None of the above

8%

All my friends did so

5%

I felt pressured to do so

0%

To make my voice heard

57%

It was an easy way to show my support

72%

I felt passionate about the cause

72%

I thought it would make a difference

47%

None of the above

2%

All my friends did so

0%

I felt pressured to do so

2%

To make my voice heard

74%

It was an easy way to show my support

82%

I felt passionate about the cause

82%

I thought it would make a difference

60%

None of the above

0%

All my friends did so

3%

I felt pressured to do so

0%

To make my voice heard

74%

It was an easy way to show my support

76%

I felt passionate about the cause

74%

I thought it would make a difference

69%

None of the above

0%

All my friends did so

12%

I felt pressured to do so

7%

To make my voice heard

33%

It was an easy way to show my support

82%

I felt passionate about the cause

82%

I thought it would make a difference

43%

None of the above

0%

All my friends did so

4%

I felt pressured to do so

1%

To make my voice heard

60%

It was an easy way to show my support

76%

I felt passionate about the cause

77%

I thought it would make a difference

55%

None of the above

2%

Those who chose NOT to use social media to support a cause

Percentage of social media users...

I don’t think posts about issues or events on social media make a difference

23%

I don’t use social media for posts about issues or events

55%

I don’t want my family or friends to know my opinions about issues or events

16%

I don’t want my work colleagues to know my opinions about issues or events

16%

Out of fear about what others might think of my opinions about issues or events

10%

I choose to support causes I believe in through other means

62%

None of the above

17%

I don’t think posts about issues or events on social media make a difference

23%

I don’t use social media for posts about issues or events

55%

I don’t want my family or friends to know my opinions about issues or events

16%

I don’t want my work colleagues to know my opinions about issues or events

16%

Out of fear about what others might think of my opinions about issues or events

10%

I choose to support causes I believe in through other means

62%

None of the above

17%

Those who chose NOT to use social media to support a cause

Male

Female

18-29

30-39

40-49

50-64

65+

I don’t think posts about issues or events on social media make a difference

24%

21%

39%

17%

20%

18%

23%

I don’t use social media for posts about issues or events

54%

56%

51%

55%

51%

54%

63%

I don’t want my family or friends to know my opinions about issues or events

14%

19%

25%

13%

10%

21%

9%

I don’t want my work colleagues to know my opinions about issues or events

14%

19%

21%

21%

8%

19%

9%

Out of fear about what others might think of my opinions about issues or events

12%

9%

12%

17%

2%

8%

13%

I choose to support causes I believe in through other means

59%

66%

59%

57%

66%

65%

61%

None of the above

21%

12%

13%

19%

19%

17%

17%

Base

122

108

33

43

49

56

49

I don’t think posts about issues or events on social media make a difference

24%

I don’t use social media for posts about issues or events

54%

I don’t want my family or friends to know my opinions about issues or events

14%

I don’t want my work colleagues to know my opinions about issues or events

14%

Out of fear about what others might think of my opinions about issues or events

12%

I choose to support causes I believe in through other means

59%

None of the above

21%

Base

122

I don’t think posts about issues or events on social media make a difference

21%

I don’t use social media for posts about issues or events

56%

I don’t want my family or friends to know my opinions about issues or events

19%

I don’t want my work colleagues to know my opinions about issues or events

19%

Out of fear about what others might think of my opinions about issues or events

9%

I choose to support causes I believe in through other means

66%

None of the above

12%

Base

108

I don’t think posts about issues or events on social media make a difference

39%

I don’t use social media for posts about issues or events

51%

I don’t want my family or friends to know my opinions about issues or events

25%

I don’t want my work colleagues to know my opinions about issues or events

21%

Out of fear about what others might think of my opinions about issues or events

12%

I choose to support causes I believe in through other means

59%

None of the above

13%

Base

33

I don’t think posts about issues or events on social media make a difference

17%

I don’t use social media for posts about issues or events

55%

I don’t want my family or friends to know my opinions about issues or events

13%

I don’t want my work colleagues to know my opinions about issues or events

21%

Out of fear about what others might think of my opinions about issues or events

17%

I choose to support causes I believe in through other means

57%

None of the above

19%

Base

43

I don’t think posts about issues or events on social media make a difference

20%

I don’t use social media for posts about issues or events

51%

I don’t want my family or friends to know my opinions about issues or events

10%

I don’t want my work colleagues to know my opinions about issues or events

8%

Out of fear about what others might think of my opinions about issues or events

2%

I choose to support causes I believe in through other means

66%

None of the above

19%

Base

49

I don’t think posts about issues or events on social media make a difference

18%

I don’t use social media for posts about issues or events

54%

I don’t want my family or friends to know my opinions about issues or events

21%

I don’t want my work colleagues to know my opinions about issues or events

19%

Out of fear about what others might think of my opinions about issues or events

8%

I choose to support causes I believe in through other means

65%

None of the above

17%

Base

56

I don’t think posts about issues or events on social media make a difference

23%

I don’t use social media for posts about issues or events

63%

I don’t want my family or friends to know my opinions about issues or events

9%

I don’t want my work colleagues to know my opinions about issues or events

9%

Out of fear about what others might think of my opinions about issues or events

13%

I choose to support causes I believe in through other means

61%

None of the above

17%

Base

49