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University of Cambridge researcher and social psychologist Dr. Sander van der Linden has published a recent report in the journal Nature Human Behaviour that attempts to outline the psychological factors that underpin the recently wave of "viral altruism" that we've all seen in out social media feeds. Campaigns like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and the once popular KONY campaign have seemingly risen as fast as the fell back in anonymity.
These psychological factors include the influence of social norms, particularly the nature desire to join a social consensus and the appeal of conforming to prosocial behaviour (such as appearing charitable), having a clear ethical incentive to act, and the appetite for a 'warm glow': the positive emotional benefit derived from feeling compassionate.
The most important yet hardest to achieve factor is what Dr. Sander van der Linden calls 'translational impact': the conversion of a digital gesture of support, or 'clicktivism', into tangible contributions, whether they be financial donations or going beyond the call to action to raise funds and awareness from others.
Despite the fact that we're coming closer to understanding a 'formula' or 'recipe' for orchestrating viral charity campaigns, the irrefutable positive impact that these trends have is counterbalanced by their extremely short life span. Van der Linden found that the Ice Bucket Challenge was one such example that was high in popularity but extremely short in duration. Online interest and donations reverted to pre-viral levels in a matter of a few weeks. Van der Linden also found that the engagement was superficial - with about 25% of participants not mentioning the ALS charity in their Ice Bucket Challenge videos and only 1 in 5 even mentioning donation to a cause.
Although the money raised from these viral campaigns is undoubtedly an incredible opportunity for the charities that can pull it off, people should be wary of the extremely temporary engagement they have with these trends. Rather than fostering a sporadic and impulsive donation habit, you should consider engaging in a more consistent and longer-term donation pattern, like allocating a small percentage of your income to a charity budget that allows you to have a more sustained impact over time.
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As a world traveler, Renato has developed a truly globalized perspective. Him and his wife Siu care deeply about issue that affect people around the world and want to focus on contributing to organizations that can drive positive change.