Student’s Green Social Thesis Explores Social Media And Sustainability

10 05 2016

By Carissa Brzezinski (@CJBrzezinski)

Soon-to-be graduating Interactive Web Management/ Journalism student, Madeline Fisher, wants to know whether people are engaging in the sustainable behaviors they see on their social media feeds.

Fisher planned to answer this question through her yearlong research project as part of UW Oshkosh’s Honors Program. Seniors within the honors program are required to complete either an honors thesis or senior seminar to graduate. Students pick any topic that relates to their major and have the ability to choose a faculty member to help guide them. Fisher chose Journalism Professor Sara Steffes Hansen to serve as her faculty advisor.

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The official project, Breaking down barriers: The relationship between social media and behavior change within sustainability objectives, includes a formal thesis paper and a digital e-book. Fisher explained how her project explored how people may find sustainable ideas on social media timelines, such as composting, and while liking the ideas, do not act on them.

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Inspired by her two-year social media internship with the Sustainable World Coalition, Fisher was used to followers interacting with sustainable information she posted online.

“Followers were engaging with posts: liking, commenting and sharing the information I was distributing,” Fisher said. “But a thought that kept occurring to me was this: Are people actually engaging in sustainable behaviors in real life? If I’m posting all of this social content, is it really making a difference? Or is it just growing the organization’s follower count?”

Thus her project was born, also known as Green Social (#GreenSocial).

“Maddie did an exceptional job of pursuing an important research topic with practical uses for non-profit organizations,” Hansen said. “She also used creative storytelling and appealing visuals to make her findings informational and interesting.”

Fisher’s research included two focus groups with social media users, and one survey with over 300 respondents. She presented her findings at the Celebration of Scholarship, Honors Thesis Symposia and IWM Advisory Board Meeting.

Fisher is one of the first IWM honors thesis projects for UW Oshkosh, and she will be graduating May 14.

 

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