Too many Facebook friends bad news for charities

August 06, 2012

New research suggests the more friends we have on Facebook, the less likely we are to share information about charitable causes.

Economist Professor Kimberley Scharf, from the Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE) at the University of Warwick, claims when we have larger online social networks, we rely on other people to pass on information about opportunities to give. This phenomenon is called 'free riding'.

Professor Scharf also suggests we may even rely on others to donate. She will present her research paper 'Private Provision of Public Goods and Information Diffusion in Social Groups' in Dresden at the 2012 International Institute of Public Finance Congress on 16-19th August.

In the paper, she develops an economic model of giving where people share overlapping social neighbours.

Professor Scharf said: "For example, with Facebook I have friends and my friends have friends. I wanted to see if the number of social connections individuals have affects the way that information about quality of charity provision is diffused, and if it does, what the implications are for total giving.

"Information transmission about giving opportunities is undermined by 'free riding' incentives - I count on other neighbours to convey information and so save on the effort of doing it myself. If there is less information flowing about who are the more effective charities, then not all donations will be going to the best performing charity and there will be a reduction in the charitable good or service. As well as relying on others to pass on information, it may also be true that people are even relying on others to donate."

Professor Scharf said her study showed there is more giving in smaller, closer-knit groups of individuals who share common interests.

She said: "This is what matters, the closeness of social interactions: large loosely connected groups share information less effectively than smaller, better integrated groups.

"Economists have traditionally viewed giving as an individual choice. It is time for a rethink - we are long overdue in asking questions about how social connections shape giving. The answers are important, they will help us understand how better to target private and public resources aimed at promoting giving."

Professor Scharf added social interactions are not always good for giving. People may share information about worthy causes or good providers, but if there are too many people sharing information, the messages could get lost in the noise of the crowd.
-end-
Notes to editors

The paper 'Private provision of public goods and information diffusion in social groups' by Kimberley Scharf is published as a CAGE working paper (http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/research/centres/cage/research/papers/kim_working_paper.pdf) and as a CEPR Discussion Paper 8607 (http://www.cepr.org/pubs/new-dps/dplist.asp?dpno=8607.asp).

To speak to Professor Scharf, please call (+44) 07800 961 216, k.scharf@warwick.ac.uk or alternatively contact Kelly Parkes-Harrison, Press and Communications Manager, k.e.parkes@warwick.ac.uk, 02476 150868, 07824 540863

University of Warwick

Related Facebook Articles from Brightsurf:

Facebook political ads more partisan, less negative than TV
More political candidates may be shifting primarily to social media to advertise rather than TV, according to a study of advertising trends from the 2018 campaign season.

Facebook anniversaries inspire reflection, nostalgia
Posted on Facebook, milestones such as birthdays and anniversaries prompt users to reflect on the passage of time and the patterns of their lives -- and help the social media giant recycle content in order to boost engagement, according to new Cornell research.

Healthier and happier without Facebook
Two weeks of 20 minutes less time per day on Facebook: a team of psychologists from Ruhr-Universit├Ąt Bochum (RUB) invited 140 test persons to participate in this experiment.

Facebook language changes before an emergency hospital visit
A new study published in Nature Scientific Reports reveals that the language people use on Facebook subtly changes before they make a visit to the emergency department (ED).

When college students post about depression on Facebook
When college students post about feelings of depression on Facebook, their friends are unlikely to encourage them to seek help, a small study suggests.

Quitting Facebook could boost exam results
In research that validates what many parents and educators suspect, students whose grades are below average could boost their exam results if they devoted less time to Facebook and other social networking sites.

Depressed by Facebook and the like
Great holiday, fantastic party, adorable children, incredible food: everyone shows their life in the best light on social networks.

Can Facebook improve your mental health?
Contrary to popular belief, using social media and the internet regularly could improve mental health among adults and help fend off serious psychological distress, such as depression and anxiety, finds a new Michigan State University study.

How stress leads to Facebook addiction
Friends on social media such as Facebook can be a great source of comfort during periods of stress.

The dead may outnumber the living on Facebook within 50 years
New analysis by academics from the Oxford Internet Institute (OII), part of the University of Oxford, predicts the dead may outnumber the living on Facebook within 50 years, a trend that will have grave implications for how we treat our digital heritage in the future.

Read More: Facebook News and Facebook Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.