Before you shout “Of course I do!” and go back to reading a list of 27 Reasons Why You Just Need To Do You – just hear me out.
Would you really have taken note of gay marriage if it wasn’t plastered across all social media? Would you really have taken a stance if the overwhelming majority wasn’t already voicing a similar opinion? Would you really change your profile picture to emulate a political statement if it wasn’t currently trending?
Ask yourself these questions, and then answer them honestly.
Maybe you would. Maybe you wouldn’t. But nonetheless, this has been my problem with social media since it’s inception into my life.
I could go on all day about mankind’s love affair with the internet, but the most pertinent aspect of this love is our desire to use the digital space to create a stylized version of ourselves—one we desire to be in real life. We create social cocoons not to reflect our real world self, but to create a digital doppelganger to alter everybody else’s perceptions of us.
On some level, nobody is truly who they say they are online. Whether you deleted that unflattering picture or you’re full-on ‘catfishing’ someone, we all use social media to alter people’s perceptions of us.
It’s naïve to think that this social self-crafting doesn’t extend to more serious social issues as well. We want people to think we’re pretty, fun, adventurous, and trendy. And maybe most importantly, we want people to think that we’re socially savvy.
Months before the rainbow-filtered profile picture of Facebook fame was the style of the summer, there was another symbol that made its rounds. You might remember the bi-colored equality symbols that surfaced months ago when legislative action was first brought into public spotlight. While it was great to see an outpouring of support, most of those symbols went away in favor of “hot dogs or legs” selfies by the pool.
Why did people take them down? Did the issue cease to be? Was it resolved, or did we simply get bored of that current cause?
When you set a rainbow-filtered picture on your Facebook page, were you trying to make a difference or just make a statement?
Of course I support marriage equality. Of course I believe that any two Americans should be given equal rights when it comes to who they love, and to share in the joys (and terrors) of marriage. Plus, the whole “raising children right” argument can be defeated with this image and the knowledge of the hell-spawn that is Honey Boo-Boo.
70 percent of Americans born after 1980 favor same-sex marriage and 57 percent of Catholics think it should be legal. That’s correct, Catholics. As you can see, there is a right side of history, and the majority of people are on it.
I know what you’re thinking…
- That everyone showing their support on social media helps to contribute to the normalization of that statement.
It shows that people aren’t alone in their fight for equality.
It tells the world how many stand in favor of lifting the ban.
But guess what?
- People who need “normalization” are the same kind who would say “it’s not natural” as a legitimate defense against gay marriage—and they’re probably not changing their minds because of something they saw on Facebook.
People know they’re not alone in their fight. They have huge parades with millions in attendance, and entire festivals dedicated to this kind of support. You changing your profile picture to a rainbow offers about as much support as changing it to a picture of boobs to prevent breast cancer.
Maybe “the world” of social media sees it, but I hardly think any of the numbers in the Pew survey or signatures in a petition are attributed to “numbers of profile pictures changed.” Then again, maybe that’s how we should vote for our next president. (RT for Democrat, Favorite for Republican)
So again, here’s my issue.
I don’t have a problem with you supporting gay marriage. I don’t have a problem with you showing it. And this article isn’t meant to be lashing out at people who did choose to show their support.
This article is to point attention to the fact that standing in support of something and doing something are two separate things.
It’s easy to show support, which is clearly proven by our little profile picture badges. It’s even easier to simply not be against something. But every time someone tells me that their rainbow-filtered statement is the equivalent to doing something to make a change, it’s a slap in the face to everyone who has tried to make real change happen.
It’s an insult to the people who risked careers, reputations, and even their personal safety to stand up for something they believed in. It’s this kind of smug, self-congratulatory patting of your own back that I take issue with.
Would you really put yourself in the same category as those who marched in Washington? Who have stood up and looked injustice in the face?
Did you attend a rally? Did you write your congressman? Or did you just change your profile picture?
For most of us, our support is a product of wanting to show that we care, without ever doing anything in the real world to support the change we want to see. We want to wave the banners and sound the call while others do the fighting in the trenches. Most of us, maybe even subconsciously, do things like this to show the world that I cared about this issue. That I made a difference. That I am on the good side.
We didn’t want to just show our support, we wanted our social media circles to know we supported it.
I am profoundly happy that gay marriage is legal at last, in the land of the free. It’s overdue, in my opinion, as we should always be in favor of liberties for every citizen (even in light of other’s beliefs). But while I may have shared in the joy and shown my support for those gay friends of mine to which this was a monumental victory, I will not claim I was the one who made a difference.
I will not cheapen their triumph or pretend that I was the final straw that facilitated change. I showed my support on a personal level, and that’s enough for me.
So go ahead, wave your flags, wear your t-shirts and throw a hashtag on it. It’s a truly great thing to show your support for social change you care about in this country, and a phenomenal way to exercise your freedom of speech.
But if you really care about something, and you really want to see a change – it’s going to take more than a click of a button.