As The Dissident, J.J. Colagrande turns his critical eye on Miami culture. This week: why updating your profile picture online doesn't make you a freedom fighter.
Facebook feeds around the country are now filled with red and pink, as users change their profile picture to the Human Rights Campaign's logo to show support for gay marriage, an issue that went to the Supreme Court this week.
It's a noticeable symbol of unity and support for the gay rights movement.
But is it enough?
Of course, it's definitely laudable to show support to a cause you believe in. And if you've looked at Facebook in the past couple days, that show of support is overwhelming. That red and pink logo, and its various incarnations, have likely taken over your news feed. When seen within a massive, viral context, it does indeed look impressive.
But how much does the gesture really do? Will it influence the thoughts and minds of the Supreme Court justices? Not likely.
Will it change the minds of opponents of marriage equality? The symbol is noticeable,
sure -- but it doesn't come with any argument for the cause, or any information at all, such as a link containing an explanation of the issue at hand. It's so vague that it seems designed to preach to the choir.
The fact is, changing your profile picture online is a minimal gesture. It seems like
the least one can do to support the cause. Unless you're backing up that pic with real, tangible action, in the form of votes or volunteering or petitioning, you cannot count yourself as part of the fight for equality. It's borderline insulting to the activists who have worked hard to bring marriage equality to the Supreme Court in the first place.
Here in South Florida, this is an especially important issue. According to research by Citydata.com, two of the top five cities for gay couples in the U.S. are in South Florida: Wilton Manors and Miami Shores. These neighborhoods have high numbers of homes consisting of same-sex unmarried partners. In other words, neighborhoods where people directly influenced by the legalization of gay marriage and the striking down of DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) live. The Supreme Court's deliberations affect people in South Florida as much as, if not more than, anywhere else. These are people you know -- co-workers, fellow gym members, neighbors, friends.
Is a red-and-pink sign on Facebook or Twitter enough for them? What happened to gathering in person? The spirit seemed reignited with Occupy Wall Street, that grassroots, take-it-to-the-street swagger. But now, laziness is back.
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Imagine if every Facebook user who changed his or her profile photo also took action in the real world. What if each sent $5 to the HRC? What if they all attended local rallies to show their support? They might still not have the ear of the Supreme Court, but they'd generate media attention, they'd present their arguments for gay marriage to opponents and politicians, and they'd show the gay people in their community that they can be counted on to fight IRL -- that their support doesn't end with a mouse click.
But that might be too much to ask. Maybe the best we can muster is a red-and-pink profile picture.
J.J. Colagrande is the author of the novels Headz and Decò. Follow him on Twitter.