The current focus on same-sex marriage and social media’s solidarity campaign challenges people to stand up for their beliefs and show their support. This heightened focus on the issue expands the discussion. It helps same-sex couples feel supported, which enables them to voice their views, exposing the public to the reality of same-sex marriage. This increased awareness can only lead to increased acceptance, and eventually to full inclusion.
Marriage equality has been a popular topic in recent years. There has been much debate aimed at swaying minds of those on the fence and raising awareness among those that are mildly informed. While still an extremely controversial topic, same-sex marriage has sparked public interest and has created an ongoing conversation, especially through social media sites.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week or have completely avoided every aspect of social media, you have probably noticed at least one of your Facebook or Twitter followers has changed their standard profile picture to one of a red and pink equality symbol in support of same-sex marriage.
Last week, nine Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments in two cases regarding same-sex marriage. The first was Hollingsworth v. Perry, which questions the constitutionality of Proposition 8, which eliminated recognition of same-sex marriage. The second was United States v. Windsor and challenges the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and unfair treatment of same-sex couples.
Meanwhile, Monday, March 25 marked the beginning of social media sites being painted in shades of red. The Human Rights Campaign posted a photo asking followers to change their photos to show their support for marriage equality.
Over the next 24 hours, The Facebook Data Science Team notes that Facebook saw a 2.7 million user or 120 percent increase in profile photo updates compared to the previous Tuesday, showcasing one aspect of the campaigns impact. While the campaign spread nationally, it spread demographically as well, with Facebook users in their 30s participating the most in the campaign.
Throughout the week, many people had fun with their icons by creating various versions of the image to reflect their own personalities.
While social media can sometimes be a source for the world’s nonsense and misinformation, it has proved to be a powerful tool to focus attention on worthwhile causes and engage people in conversation about topics that may have an effect on political decision makers and legislation.
The reason I believe this campaign is so important is because it clearly points to a shift in public opinion. As social media users were exposed to the campaign, it seemed that one of two things happened with each user:
1. People who were already in support of same-sex marriage saw the equality symbol and shared the image or post a status in support, showing acceptance and influencing others to do the same.
2. Someone who is opposed to same-sex marriage is exposed to the campaign, wirnesses friends, family members, colleagues, etc. in support, and as a result, may reevaluate their stance, especially if the people they love are supporting the cause.