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More Fodder For Social Media Activism Pessimists

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, March 10 2014

A recent study of the Save Darfur Facebook campaign found that the massive participation online gave the “illusion of activism rather than facilitating the real thing.” More evidence, if it was needed, that the “revolution will not be tweeted.”

At its peak, Save Darfur was one of the biggest social movements on Facebook and boasted more than 1 million members.

The study, co-authored by Kevin Lewis, Kurt Gray and Jens Maierhenrich, found that activists recruited through Facebook were the least active of participants: “most individuals in our data set recruited no one else into the Cause and contributed no money to it.”

Less than one percent, a mere .24 percent, of Facebook participants donated money to the campaign, a pittance when compared to the 2 to 8 percent donation rate that old-fashioned mailings typically generate.

Participation in the Save Darfur Facebook campaign was dominated by “hyper-activists” who recruited most of the members and donated the bulk of the funds.

"The study is an important counter-balance to unbridled enthusiasm for the powers of social media," Lewis told Wired UK. "There's no inherent magic. Social media can activate interpersonal ties but won't necessarily turn ordinary citizens into hyper-activists."

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