Facebook users show empty support for gay rights

By on April 2, 2013
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Last week, people across the nation changed their Facebook profile pictures in support of marriage equality. I’ve sure all of you have noticed it, if not actually participated in it. Whether you knew it or not, this mass picture-changing is a campaign by the Human Rights Campaign, a LGBT group, to show support and raise awareness for marriage equality as the Supreme Court readied to hear a landmark case over the prospect of gay marriage.

Human Rights Campaign symbol that Facebook users changed their profile pictures to last week. commons.wikimedia.org

Human Rights Campaign symbol that Facebook users changed their profile pictures to last week. commons.wikimedia.org

Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m all for marriage equality. But, if I may ask, other than letting your Facebook friends know that you are in favor of gays being able to marry, what did changing your profile picture accomplish? Does changing your profile picture somehow help give marriage rights to gay people? I know for sure that justices of the Supreme Court are not going to count the number of people on Facebook who changed their profile pictures, and then make a decision based on that count.

What many people (myself included, though I took the extra effort to change my profile to an integral sign) did was simply follow the crowd like a pack of lemmings. I really didn’t give too much thought or effort to it. No doubt that I really do favor marriage equality, but I didn’t do too much. Changing a profile picture is akin to nodding my head and saying, “Yea, it’s cool.”

It is but a mere shallow semblance of showing support. I felt good because I think I have accomplished something. I think that, with the advent of social media, it has become easier and easier for us to “support” a cause with minimal effort. Change your profile picture or tweet a message of support, and it’s done.

But did I do anything more than that? Unless it is backed up with physical action, my vocal outputs are nothing but hot air. I did nothing that may have actually helped. Perhaps I should have instead signed a petition, called my congressman, or started volunteering.

This, of course, applies to more than just marriage equality. This applies every cause, every belief. If you really do support something, it is not enough to be simply outspoken about it. Though it may be possible for a single person to change the world through words only, the odds are definitely not in their favor. To really make an impact, you have to do something much more concrete.

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