As Facebook has been inundated with users posting red equal sings as their profile pictures in favor of gay marriage, the image, which has been uploaded more than 2.7 million times according to Facebook’s data, the photo, and message behind it has come to be more of a social status than a symbol for social change.
While the sentiments behind the image are to be respected — showing support for a group of people who are granted a substandard set of rights by society — the rampant spread of the image has diluted its meaning, and this form of online slacktivism casts a falsely positive light on the work that remains to be done within the LGBT community.
While the Supreme Court is certainly not going to be spending the next few months counting up the number of red equal-signed profile pictures, there are many other issues that require widespread attention and a call for action.
According to the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy, between 15 and 43 percent of gay or transgender workers experienced some form of workplace discrimination, and between seven and 41 percent of gay or transgender workers experienced some form of verbal or physical abuse while in the workplace. According to a Human Rights Campaign report, hate crimes inflicted upon individuals based on sexual orientation make up close to 20 percent of all hate crimes, and the hate crimes committed upon people based on sexuality are more violent than for other hate crimes.
While the red equal signs are certainly heart warming to see in that years ago, support for gay rights from non-LGBT individuals on a forum as public as Facebook was much more rare, the intent behind uploading the photo means little if an individual’s commitment to working toward advancing equal rights for all end with the posting or “liking” of a photo