Last week, the Supreme Court held oral arguments in two seminal cases: Hollingsworth v. Perry and Windsor v. US. The decisions can potentially have a vast impact on marriage and gay rights. In the past week, the public has responded in ways that are atypical, specifically on social media sites.
On Monday, the Human Rights Campaign began to encourage its supporters to change their Facebook profile pictures to an equality sign, signifying their support for marriage equality. Red profile pictures soon took over the social networking site, even prompting gay marriage opponents to respond with signs communicating an anti-marriage sign.
In political science research, social media promotes personal and group identities–something that is crucial in the construction of an argument for gay marriage. The stronger the community, the more likely that the movement is likely to mobilize people to participate. However, there has been some criticism of these profile pictures. Some claim that this is weak support or yet another sign of slacktivism: political actions performed on the Internet which require little time or involvement.
Political communication research has long supported the idea that this type of activity actually Buy Viagra encourages political participation. Scholars have developed models that explain how interpersonal communication over the Internet has the ability to encourage people to participate in politics. The interpersonal communication that occurs over social media networks should also help to foster participation. For example, one group of researchers found that Twitter is fairly adept at disseminating information, but building also at building communities, and spurring people to action.
Facebook has chimed in on the debate, showing how widespread this event was. While they stop short of claiming that changing profile pictures has any implications for participation, Facebook’s Data Science Team says that the data helps to judge the impact of this event. The map at the top of this post shows the estimated increase in profile picture changes across the country. A deeper red indicates that a greater percentage of people in that county were likely to change their profile picture. This type of analysis is great and their post offers even more analysis. However, as evidenced by the articles cited in this post, political scientists have been consistently publishing research that supports the idea that slacktivism can encourage participation.