Networking for Change

How one little picture impacted the big picture of equality.

Once upon a time, Facebook was a different land. It was a place meant for college students to connect with out-of-town friends and fellow students in a less obnoxious arena than other places (looking at you Myspace). Facebook back then was not “free for everyone.” You had to have a valid college email address from a school that had been accepted into the Facebook fold. Now…not so much. Despite the inane updates and endless memes, social media like Facebook can be put to good use.

There is one brilliant example with which you are already acquainted: the red Equality sign.

This red image is a reimagining of the classic Human Rights Campaign (HRC) blue and yellow symbol that was created in 1985. It was released by the HRC to coincide with the Supreme Court hearings on marriage equality that took place on March 26, 2013. Anastasia Khoo, Director of Marketing at the HRC, says that red was chosen because it is “the color of love…which is truly what these Supreme Court cases are about.” Facebook certainly felt that love when profile pictures aplenty bled red.

But what good does changing your picture do? For one thing, it gives people a chance to stand up, or “come out”, for equality. “Eight out of ten people know someone that is gay and so that helps to put a face on this issue.” This helps the HRC achieve its goal, which Anastasia said is simply “changing hearts and minds, one conversation at a time.” With 81% of Americans under the age of thirty being in favor of equality, these changes get closer every day and social media is a useful resource when it comes to promoting this struggle. Seeing politicians, celebrities, neighbors, friends, family all showing support for equal rights on a social networking site “is something you cannot measure but it is a powerful statement, nonetheless.” A statement Anastasia hopes can reach anyone that is feeling alone or mistreated, especially LGBT youths who find themselves at the mercy of ignorance and intolerance.

How about something you can measure? According to Facebook, approximately 2.7 million people changed their profile pictures on the first day of these hearings (a 120% increase compared to the week before)! Anastasia says that one of the most exciting things about the spread of the new image is the volume of creative variations. From Batman to Beyonce, Paula Deen to Bert & Ernie, everyone and everything is getting the equal treatment. “My favorite would have to be Martha Stewart’s red velvet cake for equality. It is so great seeing everyone make this image their own.”

Check out the HRC’s slideshow of red Equality sign images on their website at HRC.org and while you’re at it, check out some more ways you can put the “work” in social network!

Roy Gloeckl resides in the southern hills of Pittsburgh, performing communications specialties for a local university. He is a lifelong gaymer who has yet to “catch ‘em all.” He is an actor who wants to be a cartoon. And yeah, he totally has a favorite dinosaur. Follow him on Instagram and tell him yours.