The more friends you have on Facebook, the less likely you are to share information about charitable causes, a new study has claimed.
An economist professor from the University of Warwick found that when we have larger online social networks, we rely on other people to pass on information about opportunities to give while there is more giving in smaller, closer-knit groups of individuals who share common interests.
In her study, Kimberley Scharf developed an economic model of giving where people share overlapping social neighbours.
"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," Scharf said in a statement.
"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," she said.
"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," she added.
"This is what matters, the closeness of social interactions: large loosely connected groups share information less effectively than smaller, better integrated groups,"
Scharf added that 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.
The research paper 'Private Provision of Public Goods and Information Diffusion in Social Groups' will be presented in Dresden at the 2012 International Institute of Public Finance Congress on 16-19th August.