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Social media makes you more generous, or is it more obliging?


Social media makes you more generous, or is it more obliging?

Research shows that the online world is driving gift-giving

Senior features writer

A gift in the hand was worth two in the post until online tech came along‚ increasing both online and offline gifting.
Gift-giving online is spreading in social networks partly because it is fast and easy and there are reminders about special occasions‚ a new US study shows.René Kizilcec‚ assistant professor of information science at Cornell University‚ said: “Social networking sites create greater awareness for gift-worthy occasions like birthdays‚ and gifts can be given last-minute and over long distances.”Acts of generosity online were inspiring people to give more‚ he said‚ and about half of these gifts were “unlikely to have occurred offline or via another online channel”.
Most of the presents‚ in cyberspace or offline‚ were given to people who had given the gifters a present.
Millennials were easily influenced to give online gifts but non-millennials‚ 45 to 64 years old‚ gave more presents to their peers and younger generations overall.Recent research found that sentimental gifts were more likely to delight people than superficial ones‚ but unsentimental spending seems to be taking off.
Online stores in South Africa‚ such as Takealot‚ had booming sales at Christmas in gaming products‚ music and DVDs. Another survey found that clothing‚ toys‚ hobbies and electronics were hot gifts.
Kizilcec’s team analysed online gift-giving behaviour in 2013 among American adults on Facebook‚ and did additional surveys to interpret this data.
In 2014 Facebook prompted users about birthdays‚ providing the choice of sending an online gift such as a $15 Starbucks (coffee) card through the social media platform.The researchers found:
• About 33% of all gifts given on Facebook after people’s birthdays were inspired by receiving a gift in the first place;
• 75% of the givers on Facebook had received a gift from the person to whom they gave the gift; and
• Only 11% directly reciprocated Facebook gifts.
“We found substantial evidence of social influence driving gift-giving behaviour‚” said Kizilcec. “This boost in online gifts was not just the result of substitution away from offline gifts; but rather‚ it appears that receiving online gifts inspires people to give more gifts overall.”
Kizilcec said it was gratifying to see evidence that online tech encouraged kind and co-operative behaviours.
The paper‚ Social Influence and Reciprocity in Online Gift Giving‚ will be published in the Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.

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