Internet petitions, lapel ribbons and mass charity events such as Red Nose Day are part of a culture of ostentatious caring that could be doing more harm than good, according to the latest report by think-tank Civitas.
The report, Conspicuous Compassion argues that such activities are based on hollow public expressions of caring, compassion and grief, and are about feeling good rather than actually doing good.
"We live in a post-emotional age, one characterised by crocodile tears and manufactured emotion," said the report's author Patrick West. He said that this pattern of behaviour reflects the decline of institutions like the family and the church, which used to provide emotional stability.
The report contends that devices such as empathy ribbons are ill-advised because people who wear them may think that they have done their bit without actually contributing to the charity concerned.
"If you do genuinely care about the poor and homeless, try talking to them," said West.
"Don't just wear an empathy ribbon - donate money that might actually help to cure life-threatening diseases," he added.