Wednesday, January 7, 2009

re-tweeting altruism: also altruistic?

Twitter changed last night.

If you briefly scan through the minutia discussed in the past 24 hours, some of it now appears particularly minutia-like, with the exception of one particularly profound meme: #daniela.

For those of you out-of-network, David Armano has (at the time of posting) raised over 12k for a friend in need of an apartment. In particular, the friend is a victim of domestic violence and has 3 children to support, one with Down's Syndrome, on the money made cleaning houses.

Laura "Pistachio" Fitton also demonstrated the prosocial behavior unleashed in the Twitter community through what the Huffington Post referred to as frictionless online giving for charity: water (#wellwishes).

Examples like these seem to negate the old Bystander Effect, where people are less likely to provide help in groups than alone. Is there something about the link trail that decreases the diffusion of responsibility previously held accountable? Clearly, transparent, traceable involvement increases the likelihood to engage in socially desirable behavior.

Psychologists continue to debate whether altruism exists-- pure unselfish behavior without self-benefit. Examples are rare. Armano's actions are emblematic.

What about the others who have become part of this movement-- RT-ing, Re-blogging, digging, commenting? Equally altruistic?

It's important to recognize that propagating the original request is often a diluted act of altruism. There could be an additional selfish motivation: strengthening your connection to a rising star. In my opinion, the ripple surrounding the altruism also involves a cry for Authority.

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