Just about everyone on Facebook and other social media platforms have by now seen a surge of equal signs, many painted in red, others with various color patterns, popping up as people’s profile pictures. Of course this to signify their support of marriage equality, the timing being attributed due to Prop 8 currently being debated within the Supreme Court.
Below is an excerpt from a thread on Facebook regarding this issue. The person I’m in discussion with poses a perfectly valid argument to be made, though one I disagree with.
And changing a picture on Facebook to solve world problems? Sorry i have no argument with the whole gay marriage thing, but people forget liking things/changing pictures on facebook really does nothing in the real world. I know its all in a show of support and that, but when it comes down to it its up to the people to take it to the government. No ones going to say, “oh we should change this rule because people on facebook disagree.” – Anonymous poster
FB actually is part of the ‘real world’. Especially if you understand a bit of neuroscience, what you perceive as the ‘real world’ is a subjective map of reality manifested in the brain from information taken in from your sense organs. Memes, and this is a type of meme – a mind virus – to expand on the notion of ‘meme’ as it’s used on FB, is a way of changing public opinion, and in turn, that can change history. This one act cannot, isolated in and of itself, but it’s defeatist and all too easy to dismiss the power that mass expression of solidarity can show. – My reply at the time
Social Media Integrated Into ‘Real Life’, And The Arab Spring
Perhaps the bit about neuroscience was going off on a slight tangent, but I do that sometimes. But more importantly, Facebook, and other social media tools are a part of our ‘real lives’. To claim otherwise would to to discount the influence mobile phones, ipads, computers and the internet have in our daily lives, let alone their impact upon society as a whole. Whether you think, or whether history will judge, the Arab Spring a positive or negative series of events, there’s no arguing the fact that social media played a part in the organization of people that would not have otherwise been possible.
Occupy Wall Street
The same is true for the Occupy Wall Street movement, and though the grandiosity of it has fizzled, it did change the public discourse in a different direction, and it still exists today in other forms. They buy up ‘purchase debt‘ at low prices and then forgive the debt, freeing hundreds, or thousands of people from financial chains. They have also organized sit ins to protect people from losing their homes, among other constructive endeavors.
The Fight Against SOPA Stimulated By Social Media
When SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act was close to passing, social media platforms rose in force, and as a domino effect many notable online pages such as Wikipedia staged a blackout, and the bill was defeated. That battle was won, though other bills arose in its wake, and will continue to do so, with wording too broad concerning our rights on the internet, and so we must remain vigilant and Facebook and other forms of social media helps tremendously in getting the word out fast.
Will A Profile Picture Update Sway the Supreme Court? Probably Not
It’s true that the Supreme Court is not going to make its ruling based on the number of people who have changed their profile pictures to an equal sign. What it will do though is shine a light on the darkness in people that gives rise to bigotry, and it will make that aspect of themselves feel uncomfortable, isolated, and diminished. Public opinion does matter. Not enough in our current corporate sponsored government, but it matters still.
It’s worth noting too that for people interested in supporting a cause the profile picture update or meme they hit the share button on does not mean that’s all they are contributing. A call or email to your local or state representative is also a painless and often productive step. The list of ways to raise awareness for any given cause are almost innumerable.
Knowing Is Half The Battle
If you think that raising awareness isn’t enough, perhaps it isn’t in and of itself, but remember if enough people aren’t aware an issue is a problem, then there’s a near certainty nothing is going to be done to address it.
Making your voice heard, be it through updating your status with your thoughts, your profile picture with a symbol, sending a tweet, or writing an article, matters. We as people are not isolated from one another, and people can change their mind on subjects when forced to evaluate their positions and beliefs against the growing tide of opposition. Especially when that growing tide has reasonable arguments.
As individuals we can only do so much. Some more than others. Do what you can, no matter how seemingly trivial. If a butterfly can flap its wings in Japan that eventually leads to a Hurricane in Miami – I’m not sold on that particular example – then who can foresee the ripple effect of your well intentioned actions.
“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.” – Ghandi