10 Facts About Virtue Signalling, Whereby People Post Their Kind Deeds Online

Last Updated on 2024-05-21 , 8:56 am

I’m pretty sure you have come across at least one story that is posted online where someone talks about how they helped someone who is in a slightly more disadvantaged situation.

Not sure what I’m talking about?

Well, the post usually goes like this.

I was on my way home from work when I saw this old lady sitting on the floor at a void deck again. As usual, she had some items laid out in front of her on a picnic blanket, and it was evident that she was trying to sell them. No one paid attention to her as they walked past her, even though she tried fervently to sell her items, probably to earn some money so that she can buy a meal. I had some time today, so I decided to walk up to her to learn her story.

After hearing her heartwarming story, I decided to give her $1,000 because I realised, what good is money if you are not willing to share it with people who need it the most? 

For every like and share, I will donate $10 more to people like her. 

And in reality, this person doesn’t actually follow through with his actions.

Does it sound more familiar now?

This is called Virtue Signalling, where people publicly express their good deeds in an attempt to show people how good they are, in other words, where they pretend to be kind online.

Interested to know more? Here are 10 facts about it that you might want to know!

Some People Virtue Signal To Feel Good About Themselves

Some people choose to do virtue-signalling just to prove to themselves that they are a good person. This desire could also stem from wanting to improve the way they look to themselves.

Posting it online would make it seem more legitimate and would make it feel more real, an that the incident actually happened.

This usually doesn’t bear much harm, and according to one study, it seems that people with this motivation to see themselves as better people are more likely to donate to a cause than if the motivation was something else.

Some People Virtue Signal So That Others Think Highly of Themselves

Another reason why some people choose to do virtue-signalling is so that the people around them will think of them as better people, that they are morally good. This way, it benefits their reputation and it will make them feel good as well.

When this happens, the individuals may sometimes partake in competitive altruism where they compete with others about who cares more about society and the movements that we currently have in place.

Individuals Are Not The Only Ones; Companies Do It Too

If you think that only individuals do virtue-signalling, you are wrong. In fact, companies do it too.

After all, a company is made up of people, isn’t it?

The motivation for companies could be that they are trying to improve their public image after a public scandal that has affected their stocks and revenue.

While it is possible that they may have learned from their past mistakes and are reflecting on them, it seems highly suspicious when they would suddenly gain enlightenment and decide to support an issue that has been around for decades.

Imagine a company saying that they support the Black Lives Matter movement, but have a 100% white corporate leadership.

Sounds iffy right?

Another motivation could be that they see a market for a cause that everyone is currently supporting, so they jump on the bandwagon to monetise it.

Calling Someone Out For Virtue-Signalling Could Mean You Are Virtue-Signalling As Well

Is it the pot calling the kettle black?

On every virtue-signalling post, there will definitely be at least one person in the comments section who will criticise the individual for posting their good deeds online. They also condemn those who openly support movements. Their comments would be along the lines of:

“Why do you feel the need to publicise your own good deeds? What are your real intentions exactly? To gain fame?”

However, it seems that those who call out virtue-signalling may in fact, also be virtue-signalling.

The act of calling someone out can also be seen as a way for these individuals to show that they are actually the ones who are righteous, not those who post on social media about their good deeds.

They are then painted in a slightly more positive light because they supposedly do not publicise their good deeds based on their comments on those who do. Doing this corresponds to the definition of virtue-signalling, which is why critics argue that those who condemn are still virtue-signalling, making them seem like hypocrites.

Sounds a tad difficult to understand? Well, watch this video to the end and you’d know what I mean:

People Tend To Have A Higher Tendency To Do It Online

With social media platforms being so popular amongst many these days, it’s not uncommon for people to post about their lives on it daily and share it with others who probably don’t really care that much.

But just like what many people say, most people tend to show the best versions of themselves online so that they can become a point of envy, and the lives that they post online may not actually be the reality that they are living.

With the tendency of always wanting to show others that you’re living your best life, it is easy for one to become a virtue-signaller and publicise their good deeds online. After all, it has already become second nature for them to do so.

Furthermore, doing it online does not have many repercussions as one is not expected to follow up with their actions after doing one good deed, which is why some people may take joy and even find it easier when they talk about it online.

Virtue-Signalling Happens Offline Too

While virtue-signalling mostly happens online, there are people who do it offline as well. They may do it privately to themselves just to convince themselves of their good character.

Alternatively, some may even just do it to one person or a few people to impress them. For example, it could be a case of wanting a potential dating partner to like them more, so they talk themselves up to seem more likeable and charitable.

As Much As We May Hate It, We Can’t Help It

As much as we may say that we would never do virtue-signalling, it is probably true that we have done it at least once in our lives.

Humans are social beings and we are wired in a way to conform to social norms where we do what the majority of people are doing. When they see their friends sharing about movements that they support, they may also jump on the bandwagon and say that they support it too, even if they don’t.

Virtue-Signalling Could Sometimes Lead To Powerful Change

Sometimes, people who truly believe in a cause post their opinions on social media as a means to raise awareness of it and hopefully garner support so that they are able to enact change.

One notable example would be Greta Thunberg, who is not a formally appointed leader, but an (angry) individual whose actions and words garnered support from those who believed in what she was fighting for.

While she may be condemned in the beginning for just trying to seek attention based on an issue that everyone knows about, she is now respected for her convictions of doing more for the environment and questioning political leaders on their actions taken against climate change.

This goes to show that not everyone is negative in their mindsets.

Commonly Associated with Slacktivism

Slacktivism is defined as supporting a cause without putting in much effort. This consequently leads to little to no real contributions to the cause.

This is often associated with virtue-signalling, as many people who do the latter, tend to be guilty of the former as well. This is because the motivation behind both terms is the same – to be viewed positively by others.

For example, someone partakes in slacktivism when they share a post about a movement, but do nothing else to help the cause. This becomes a detrimental issue especially when the encouragement for others to donate to a cause is ignored as it is so much easier to just share the post so that others will donate instead.

This becomes a perpetual cycle as no one really makes an active contribution to help the cause, which defeats the purpose of sharing the post in the first place.

It’s Not Always Bad

Sometimes, virtue-signalling is the only way to raise awareness of certain causes.

For example, do you remember back in 2014 where tons of people were uploading videos of themselves being dunked in buckets of ice water onto various social media platforms? The end of the video would usually be of the individuals nominating others to do the same. It became such a huge thing that even celebrities were doing it.

That was the Ice Bucket Challenge that raised awareness and money for those suffering from the motor neurone disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). In fact, the ALS Association managed to receive $115 million in donations in 2014 alone.

And let’s face it: you might not know anything about ALS until the Ice Bucket Challenge emerged.

However, the debate of virtue-signalling came when it was found that despite so many people doing the challenge, not everyone donated money to the cause. As such, it raised questions about whether people really cared for the cause, or if they were just jumping on the bandwagon to gain attention from it.

This is also the same for other movements like the Black Lives Matter campaign. While not everyone may support such movements, more are inclined to post about them in an attempt to be deemed acceptable by society.

On the bright side, while it may not be a good thing that these individuals did virtue-signalling, the outcome from the action is sometimes positive.

So with all these 10 facts, we hope you understand the action of virtue-signalling better. Do you do it sometimes? Do you know someone who does it?

Or maybe you’ve been virtue signalling every single day without you knowing about it?

Featured Image: TravellingFatman / Shutterstock.com (image is for illustration purpose only)