The Brief: Virtue signaling is outwardly indicating that one supports a cause or is a "good person," without necessarily acting in ways that correspond with such signals.


The term originated in the UK but has since proliferated internationally. The Cambridge Dictionary recently defined virtue signaling as “an attempt to show other people that you are a good person, for example by expressing opinions that will be acceptable to them, especially on social media.”

The term is often used in a negative way to imply that someone is trying to send the message that they are a “good person” without actually acting like one. An example of this might be putting “#BlackLivesMatter” in one’s social media bio, but not actually supporting the Black Lives Matter movement or any other anti-racist efforts IRL. However, virtual signaling may also be backed with actions. For example, many people both wear a pink “pussy hat” and do real work to advocate for women’s rights.

While the phrase is used in a variety of contexts by people of many political leanings, it is often referred to by people who are against “political correctness” or “PC culture” and dismiss “virtue signaling” as a performative attempt to act holier-than-thou.