Students on spring break typically update their profile photo with photos from a beach or a bar, but not this year. Instead, Facebook news feeds were flooded with a sea of red. March 26 marked the first day of Supreme Court hearings for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). The event inspired a Facebook movement in support of marriage equality. The following day, arguments questioned the constitutionality of the California Marriage Protection Act (Prop 8), followed by the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Participants chose to change their Facebook profile photos to a pink equal sign on a red background in support of the marriage equality. Overnight, many Facebook users changed their profile photos to the equal sign, many adding their own twist to the symbol. Popular online characters such as Grumpy Cat were incorporated into many photos, called logo memes. Unicorns, bacon, corgis, kittens, beer cans, tacos and hearts were also some of the images substituted for the equal signs on a red background.
According to the Supreme Court of the United States blog, the issue at stake in Prop. 8 is whether a clause in an amendment of the Constitution prohibits the State of California from defining marriage as the union between a man and a woman. The other case questions whether DOMA violates the Fifth Amendment’s promise to protect the laws applied to gays who are legally married under the laws of their State. According to the Facebook Data Science page, responsible for accumulating and analyzing data from Facebook users, a significant amount of users changed their profile picture Tuesday, March 26 compared with the Tuesday before.
About 2.7 million more users (120 percent) changed their profile picture. The Facebook Data Science page suggests that the overwhelming increase in users changing their profile picture was a result of online support for HRC. The Facebook Data Science group analyzed data in the U.S. by county and found that Washtenaw County, home to Ann Arbor, Mich. had the highest increase in profile picture change. The model approximates that 6.2 percent of users who logged in from Washtenaw County changed their profile picture in response to the HRC campaign.
Of the top 25 counties to change profile pictures, many of them were college towns. Orange (University of North Carolina), Durham (Duke University), Monroe (Indiana University), Johnson (University of Iowa), Athens (Ohio University), Dane (University of Wisconsin), Boulder (University of Colorado), and Travis (University of Texas at Austin) were some of the highest rates of profile picture change. While counties in San Francisco and Washington D.C. had high rates of support through profile picture change, Chicago was one of the cities with a high population who only showed moderate support (2.4-2.9 percent change).
DePaul students are all too familiar with activists from the HRC who often stand on the corners of Jackson and State in the Loop, as well as Sheffield and Belden Avenues in Lincoln Park passing out stickers of their infamous yellow equal sign on a blue background. Although some students may find the HRC campaign frustrating right outside their Student Center, they did not hesitate to participate in the online Facebook campaign by simply changing their profile picture. News Feeds were sprinkled with red as people participated in this on-going campaign.
“I made the equal sign my profile picture because I support the mission of the organization and thought their social media campaign was a creative and effective way of raising awareness and creating dialogue about the U.S. v Windsor case,” said Ted Daisher, freshman.
“As a gay woman I was thrilled to see marriage equality finally being addressed as a national issue and wanted to show my support even though I couldn’t physically be at the Supreme Court,” said Ariel Rosen, junior.
“Because It means that I’m allowed to be Joined with the one i love in marriage and as we are taught when we are little, marriage is the biggest symbol of love. It shows your lover that you are ready to love, support and be with them for the rest of your life and I feel that human beings should be able to feel what that’s like,” said Dominique Watkins, freshman.