Students use symbol to voice their opinion about gay marriage
A horde of red equal signs symbolizing the recent controversy in marriage equality invaded Facebook in late March as UH students revealed their standpoints and attempted to use their social media influence on political issues.
The Human Rights Campaign broadcasted their logo to represent marriage equality on March 25. According to HRC’s spokesperson on MSNBC.com, the original photo on HRC’s Facebook page was seen by over 9 million people and shared over 77,000 times the next day.
Associate professor of sociology Amanda Baumle said the image offered a convenient but effective method to increase awareness.
“Through images like the HRC marriage equality logo, individuals are able to quickly and easily disseminate a signal about their beliefs to their social networks,” Baumle said.
“And the benefit is that they often prompt individuals to research and discover the important legal or political issues behind the image. Without the Facebook image appearing over and over in your newsfeed, it might be easier to overlook what is taking place at the Supreme Court.”
Baumle said there are potential risks in voicing opinion through social media, as it can create rifts that endanger relationships.
“The enormity of social networks and the way these messages can ‘snowball’ by being shared or passed along by friend allows social media to potentially instigate change on a more widespread basis. On the flip side, there is also the potential of learning that your friends, relatives or colleagues have beliefs that are quite different from your own,” Baulme said.
Baumle also mentioned that recent polls show a narrow majority of adults who support same-sex marriage counter to a greater majority of young adults who support same-sex marriage.
“The power of these messages raises awareness in how widespread support might be for an issue, even from individuals who may not discuss their viewpoints offline,” Baumle said.
“In an era where same-sex marriage is increasingly viewed as an important question of civil rights, the ability of individuals to share their viewpoints in a fairly peaceful, non-confrontational manner can be seen as a relatively new form of organizing and reflecting a social movement toward equality.”
Advertising junior Lauren Riojas decided to change her Facebook profile picture to the red equality symbol as a way to show her stand on the issue.
“At first, I didn’t understand what the logo meant. I saw a few of them, but then they kept popping up,” Rojas said.
“I later came across a link to the HRC page and a post on the Supreme Court cases, and I decided to default the symbol as a way to show my support, not because everyone else was doing it.”
Although she didn’t encounter disagreements to her beliefs, Riojas needed to explain the meaning and relevance of marriage equality to several people and considers social media as a great way to promote awareness.
“Social media is an outlet that almost everyone is using, and hot topics are always trending. Everyone almost always has an opinion about everything, especially politics, and social media helps bridge the gap on unfamiliar issues,” Riojas said.
Alumnus Anthony Guillory also changed his Facebook profile picture to promote awareness of the cases and the issue. Having grown up in church, he confronted many problems for his public support of marriage equality.
“There were bible quoting and accusations of sinning, I think separate but equal is never actually equal, and regardless of what one chooses to believe, no one can use that to determine someone else’s rights in this country,” Guillory said.
He also said that people are influenced by what they see in commercials and billboards.
“Although I can’t do much politically, I can still show support for the cause and for many of my good friends even if it’s just Facebook,” Guillory said.
“We use social media to get ideas out and to communicate with a wide variety of individuals, but is it a good way of promoting politics? It’s better than a filibuster, but it’s not a soap box.”