Online Prosocial Behaviors

Online Prosocial Behaviors

Michelle F. Wright (Pennsylvania State University, USA) and William Stanley Pendergrass (American Public University System, USA)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2255-3.ch614
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Abstract

Prosocial behaviors in the cyber context (i.e., the internet, text messages) can be traced back to when the internet was just a message board, used to share open source software. Following these early investigations of prosocial behaviors, clinicians recognized that the internet might remove barriers to help seeking. Recent investigations have provided support for the internet as a place to seek help among various populations. Prosocial behaviors in the cyber context also have benefits for the givers as well, including health benefits, personal satisfaction, and reputational increases. This chapter draws on multidisciplinary research to review prosocial behaviors in the cyber context.
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Introduction

Over three billion people use electronic technologies (e.g., cell phones, the internet) everyday (Internet Live Stats, 2016). Although there are many investigations and news stories about negative online behaviors, less attention has been given to positive online behaviors. There are many opportunities to receive help or to perform prosocial acts through electronic technologies. This chapter focuses on online prosocial behaviors. The chapter includes eight sections:

  • Section one provides the definition of offline and online prosocial behaviors.

  • Section two examines the unique characteristics of the cyber context and how such characteristics are conductive to prosocial behaviors.

  • Section three focuses on various online prosocial behavior, including helping through electronic groups, online mentoring, online donations to charities, virtual voluntarism, and helping in other electronic contexts (e.g., social networking sites).

  • Section four investigates the value of online prosocial behaviors to the giver and receiver.

  • Section five provides theoretical explanations for why people engage in online prosocial behavior.

  • Section six describes solutions and recommendations for organizations wanting to harness electronic technologies for various helping opportunities.

  • Section seven presents suggestions for future research on online prosocial behavior.

  • The last section provides concluding remarks regarding the chapter.

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Characteristics Of Online Prosocial Behaviors

Online prosocial behaviors have some characteristics that set them apart from the same behaviors offline. Search engines make it easier to find opportunities to help or receive help online (Sproull, Conley, & Moon, 2013). It is easier to give or receive help online because one’s physical appearance or personal attributes do not influence other’s opinions (Brennan, Moore, & Smyth, 1992). Individuals can use fake names or screen names and hide their identities online, which reduces stigmas associated with seeking help (Wright & Li, 2012). The online environment offers flexibility to individuals wanting to help or give help, allowing them to give help or receive help even with restricted schedules. There is high controllability over online prosocial behaviors. The online environment allows givers to choose when they want to help and if they want to help again without feeling pressured (Sproull et al., 2013; Wright & Li, 2012).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Online Support Groups: Online support groups allow people with the same challenges to connect via electronic technologies and/or the internet.

Online Mentoring: Online mentoring involves someone (the mentee) receiving knowledge on a topic or career via electronic technologies and/or the internet by an expert (the mentor).

Social Cognitive Theory: This theory states that people’s knowledge and behaviors are related to their observations of others.

Virtual Voluntarism: Virtual voluntarism involves using electronic technologies and/or the internet to assist an organization.

Open Source Software: Open source software is software in which the source code is available to others for modification or enhancement.

Online Prosocial Behaviors: Online prosocial behaviors involve helping, sharing, donating, and volunteering that is carried out via electronic technologies and the internet.

Co-Construction Theory: This theory proposes that people’s identities are constructed in similar ways online and offline.

Prosocial Behaviors: Prosocial behaviors are acts that involve helping, sharing, donating, and volunteering.

Online Donating/Fundraising: Online donating and fundraising involves raising money or accepting donations via electronic technologies and the internet.

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