Social Media’s Social Impact
Marriage Equality Day created quite the buzz on sites like Facebook and Twitter over the past couple of days. For those of you that live in a cave, millions of people around the United States changed their Facebook pictures and updated status in support of the gay marriage court case going through the Supreme Court this week. The red background and white equality sign, in its various forms, blanketed social media in a form of digital, peaceful form of protest against a law many feel is behind the times.
That being said, there was another major event that occurred that day. Facebook dealt with an overload of new profile pictures and status updates, and the buzz was heard worldwide.
Social media is the new chatroom, it’s the new book club meeting, it’s the new school cafeteria. There’s gossip and flirting, arguments and conflicting opinion, and social protest and displays of unity. This was definitely the latter. Without getting to political, the key message of this Marriage Equality display on Facebook, from almost all factions was, “yeah this is a big issue, but shouldn’t this have already been taken care of?”
The big fad for the beginning of the week was changing a Facebook picture to the marriage equality symbol put on display by the Human Rights Campaign. Users from all over the country donned the white equality symbol on their Facebook. In fact, 2.7 million more people (approximately 120% higher) than the previous Tuesday updated their Facebook pictures. While some of that number might be skewed for people who didn’t update to the HRC equality picture, that number is still staggering. Look at this graph, that shows the break down of the number of changed profile pictures.
The social networking site also examined which states were talking bout the marriage equality act more. As you probably know, Illinois is facing a heated battle over the marriage equality act, as well as California. If you look at the map, you can see that both of those states had pretty high levels of picture changing, but it was the county that houses the University of Michigan, Washtenaw County that carried the biggest change on Tuesday. The other top counties for the profile picture updating also housed major universities, including the University of North Carolina, Duke, Indiana University, University of Colorado and the University of Texas at Austin.
Facebook uses a tool they call the “Talk Meter,” which is able to connect the data you provide Facebook on your profile, and relate that to status updates and comments. The big argument going on now, is that Facebook is using some of this data to connect advertisers with your wallets, but in this case, the Talk Meter was actually pretty cool.
The phrase “SCOTUS” which is the acronym for the Supreme Court of the United States, received an 8,000% spike in conversation on Facebook, on Tuesday alone. Five of the top eight topics discussed on Facebook in the first couple days of the week dealt with gay marriage in some which way shape or form.
One of the more surprising notes about the conversation, contradictory to most trends on social media, is that it wasn’t the younger generations dominating the discussions. Instead, it was the age bracket of 35-44 that had the most things to say about marriage equality.
The big topic of conversation here shouldn’t be the marriage equality day, while it is extremely important. The big topic of conversation here is the fact that 2.7 million plus people decided to show unity on a digital platform that reaches the world over. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, these outlets for expressing who you are may change or evolve as we do, but the idea of a global connection to one another is something that our generation and future generations will live with forever.
About joemartin2014J-student at Arizona State University, and pursing a minor in business as well.
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