Hayley Brooks & Ali Kokot | Social slacktivism
Think Twice | Facebook’s recent “red equals sign movement” is more trendy than it is political
April 2, 2013, 11:28 pm·
Ali Kokot & Hayley Brooks
An actual text correspondence, March 26th, 12:55 p.m.:
Ali: “What is this pink red equals campaign on fb”
Hayley: “Equal love, supreme court decision on doma comin up”
Hayley: “So ppl are like showing their support”
Ali: “Ah got it cool”
At 1:03 p.m., Ali changed her profile picture to the Human Rights Campaign equals sign image, customizing it with her weird butter and Paula Deen obsessions all the while. (Friend her. Worth seeing.)
But we weren’t the only ones. Early last week we noticed our Facebook newsfeeds plastered with these red and pink babies. According to Facebook’s hard data, 2.7 million more users changed their profile pictures on March 26, the same day of the Hollingsworth v. Perry case, compared to the previous Tuesday.
But even though the Supreme Court has yet to reach a verdict on the Defense of Marriage Act, the equals signs have dwindled, replaced by the more normative images proving that you were at Ultra, promoting your club’s next event or reminding us all that you’re madly, madly in love.
Supporting a cause has become as simple as clicking “upload” with an ease that undermines actual activism. Facebook is a venue where we’re constantly sharing ideas — from politics to baby animal videos — for an audience with a super short attention span.
We weren’t surprised to see the equals sign campaign rise and fall faster than the Furby epidemic. This cyber trend was just that — a fad — more than it was a campaign.
Melanie Tannenbaum’s article in Scientific American raised the question of whether or not this “prof pic” effort would deliver results in the Supreme Court. Time Magazine answered it with the brazen cover of its latest issue, titled: “Gay Marriage Already Won: The Supreme Court Hasn’t Made Up Its Mind, but America Has.”
Though Time notes the social media blitz on DOMA, Tannenbaum argues that humans are wired to respond to widespread norms. At Penn, peer pressure has graduated from high school and followed us to college. “We don’t really care so much about what we should do,” Tannenbaum explains, “We care about what other people do. And then we really, really care about not being different.”
Even if you think you are the most individualistic individual at Penn, chances are you’re making decisions this way too. Why doesn’t anyone go to Qdoba? Because no one goes to Qdoba.
Ask yourself, why did you change your picture — is it because you really oppose DOMA or because your friend did, so you thought you should too?
Ali’s dad puts our slacktivism to shame. “In the Vietnam days you had to organize in a physical space rather than a virtual space,” he said. “You had to get your ass in gear and show up somewhere. If it was in Washington, you had to get your ass on a bus.”
There is a fad component to this equals campaign, and the trend is ending before the cause — DOMA’s potential repeal — has even been realized. It’s like if the suffragettes gathered at Seneca Falls but then peaced out and went sailing. How could we be bored with this campaign before SCOTUS has reached its verdict? Our lack of genuineness is as palpable as our disappointment with the Spring Fling lineup.
Our friend Serena Shi, Wharton and College junior and head of events for the Penn Social Entrepreneurship Movement, has not changed her profile picture from the HRC symbol since uploading it on March 26. “I first saw it and was confused by what it was,” she admitted. “But I looked it up and was like, wow, this is important and bound to be a turning moment in history.”
Like us, Serena was totally oblivious to almost everyone else changing their profile pictures back to “normal” from the red equals sign. “I really thought people were coming together and trying to take a stance on this … it kind of falls into the need for instant gratification and trendiness that characterizes our generation.”
We admittedly began showing our support to repeal DOMA by hopping on a trendy bandwagon, but we’ll be keeping our profile pictures red and pink until SCOTUS has reached its decision. Case closed.
Ali Kokot and Hayley Brooks are College juniors from New York, N.Y. and Ft. Lauderdale, F.L. respectively. You can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow them at @haybethbrooks and @alikokot. “Think Twice” appears every Wednesday.