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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01989

Can a like save the planet? Comparing antecedents of and correlations between environmental liking on social media, money donation, and volunteering

 Alexander G. Buessing1*, Annelene Thielking1 and Susanne Menzel1
  • 1Deparmtment of Biology/Chemistry, Didactics of Biology, University of Osnabrück, Germany

Due to the societal dissemination of digital technology, people are increasingly experiencing environmental topics through digital media channels such as social networks. Several researchers therefore have proposed these channels as a possibility to strengthen sustainable development based on their cost-efficient nature. But while prior studies have investigated isolated factors for understanding environmental social media behavior, there is still scarce understanding of the relevant underlying motivational factors and possible connections with more traditional environmental behaviors. Therefore, the present study applied the established socio-psychological model of goal-directed behavior (MGB) and compared the desires for liking as a fundamental form of digital social media behavior with the desires for two traditional environmental behaviors (money donation and volunteering) in a cross-sectional research design. Within the biodiversity conservation case of the Andean bear (Tremarctos ornatus) in Ecuador, we compared the antecedents for the desires for the corresponding environmental behaviors (RQ1) as well as their connections between each other (RQ2). Within a sample of 407 Ecuadorian students (Mage = 20.94 years, SD = 2.25, 61.2 % female), we found the marginal effect of perceived behavioral control on the desires for liking on social media as the main difference concerning the antecedents of the behaviors because money donation and volunteering largely depended on personal resources such as time or money. Furthermore, gender emerged as the second main difference between the behaviors due to it only being predictive for the liking motivation. Enjoyment was the only variable that coherently predicted all three behaviors. Finally, desires for liking on social media predicted both other behaviors in robust regression analyses, but were only predictive for volunteering in corresponding path models. The results illustrate how cost-efficient digital environmental behaviors such as liking may be suitable for sparking low-level environmental action, which may entail more pronounced forms of environmental activism, at least when they involve feasible personal costs. Overall, the findings are in line with prior research regarding the less demanding nature of liking, but further elaborate on the importance of gender for digital environmental behavior and correlates between digital and classical environmental behaviors.

Keywords: Social Media, pro-environmental behavior, Andean bear, #socialmediaforsustainability, wildlife conservation, Real-world Activity

Received: 11 Feb 2019; Accepted: 14 Aug 2019.

Edited by:

Bernardo Hernández, University of La Laguna, Spain

Reviewed by:

Paola Passafaro, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy
Mar Durán, University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain  

Copyright: © 2019 Buessing, Thielking and Menzel. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Mr. Alexander G. Buessing, University of Osnabrück, Deparmtment of Biology/Chemistry, Didactics of Biology, Osnabrück, Germany,