I’m Going To Rant About Those Little Equal Sign Facebook Profile Pics Now

I get it. The cute little red equal signs all over Facebook today are an easy target. It’s not Real Activism. It doesn’t actually help anyone. Get off your ass and Actually Do Something for the cause. Right?

Yes, nobody should fool themselves that changing their profile picture will convince the Supreme Court to disregard Charles Cooper’s embarrassing performance today, and nor will it bequeath to Justice Antonin Scalia the empathy for his fellow human beings that he is sorely lacking. (By the way, Scalia, there is a scientific answer to the question of same-sex couples raising kids, and the answer is that you’re probably full of poop.) It will not magically make religious conservatives support queer rights. It will certainly not solve the serious, life-threatening issues that the queer community faces–issues more urgent than marriage rights, issues nevertheless ignored by many mainstream LGBT organizations.

I am also, needless to say, completely sympathetic to the arguments of people who chose not to use the profile pic because it’s the logo of the Human Rights Campaign, which is an organization I no longer support, either, and have recently stopped donating to.

But I’m not so sympathetic to the argument that posting the pic “does nothing.” First of all, you don’t know that a given person who’s posted it is literally doing nothing else to promote queer rights. And second, yes, it does do something.

It’s pretty damn cynical (and not exactly kind to one’s friends) to just assume that not a single one of the people who changed their profile pictures today has done anything else to support queer rights. None of them have voted. None of them have donated any money to any organizations. None of them have contacted any representatives. None of them have ever supported a queer friend who was coming out or facing bigotry. None of them have argued with anyone about queer rights.

Does changing one’s profile picture to reflect a cause they believe in negate everything else they might have done to support that cause?

It’s as though some people see others doing something small–changing a profile picture, posting a status–and then assume that that’s all they do about that particular issue. Probably not.

On Facebook, a bunch of friends shared this status:

Lots of comments about slacktivism tossed around today. I see on my feed people who contribute financially to the cause of equality; people who bear the brunt of homophobic bigotry; people who speak out in blogs, videos, social networking, newspaper editorials, and essays; people who encourage and motivate their gay friends when the crap gets to them; people who stay in contact with their representatives in government; and those who work for their candidates, attend meetings, and keep like minded thinkers informed. But I don’t see any slacktivism, not on this feed.

On that note, it seems that the people complaining about “slacktivism” today don’t necessarily realize that many of the people posting the profile pic are themselves queer. While it’d certainly be nice if all queer people “actually did something” about homophobia, many of them don’t have that option. For many of them, simply getting through the day is resistance.

Which brings me to my second point: that posting the profile pic does do tangible good. How do I know? Because people said so. I saw tons of posts today from queer friends talking about how good it feels to see all the red profile pictures, because it tells them that there are so many people who want to support them–who aren’t perfect allies, maybe (but then, who is?), but who care how the Supreme Court rules. For one gay woman who wrote to Andrew Sullivan, it made a huge difference.

Helping a queer person feel loved and accepted matters. It matters just as much as donating to a queer rights organization or marching in a protest. Perhaps it even matters more.

And also? If you’re queer and you don’t feel this way about the profile pics at all, that’s okay too. It doesn’t have to matter to you. But it matters to many of us.

I don’t care if you’ve chosen not to change your profile picture. Seriously. I don’t care what your reasons for it were. I’m not judging you. I’m not going to look through my friends list and convince myself that everyone who didn’t change their profile picture hates gay people or whatever.

But it unquestionably felt nice to see so many red squares on my screen every time I checked Facebook today. Probably not for any “rational” reason. It just felt nice to know that all these people are paying attention to what’s going on, that they care about what the Supreme Court decides and they care in the direction of equality.

Maybe most of these people really haven’t “done anything” for queer rights other than change their profile picture. That’s actually fine with me, because not everybody needs to be an activist, and it’s enough to know that all these people are part of the majority of Americans who now support same-sex marriage.

And if you’re not part of that majority, you probably went on Facebook today and saw all the people who disagree with you and who aren’t going to take your shit anymore. Maybe you argued with someone who had changed their profile picture. Maybe we even started to convince you.

I think it’s vital to embrace all kinds of activism, from the easiest and least risky to the most difficult and dangerous. It’s important not to lose sight of the concrete goals that still need to be accomplished, and especially to discuss how the conversation about marriage equality marginalizes certain people and ignores certain issues. But it’s also important to recognize symbolic gestures for what they’re worth.

Being part of a minority–and being an activist–can be lonely, stressful, and discouraging. But today I felt supported and cared for. That matters.


A “super chill” episode of Feminist Fridays about Tumblr feminism and “slacktivism”

Equality Golbat: “Before you question the validity of internet activists, consider the fact that going places costs money.”

“Affordable” is little more than a marketing buzzword. No matter how low the price, there is always someone poorer than that, who can’t afford it. If activism is only for people who don’t have to sweat every bus/train fair, then who is going to focus on the issue of poverty?


The complaints we hear today about “slacktivism” are identical to an earlier generation of complaints about “armchair activism.” Where today we hear that actions performed via the Internet are too simple to make a difference, in the 1970s we heard that actions performed via the mail or the telephone were too simple to make a difference.

Equality Golbat: “Before you question the validity of internet activists, consider the fact that some powerful people will do what you want if you just mildly annoy them enough.”

Nobody wakes up in the morning and thinks “I’m going to be evil today.” Systemic problems are primarily caused by amorality or apathy, not immorality. It’s not a new idea that if you write someone a letter every day, they’ll eventually give in or at least respond just to get you to stop. This practice has continued with phones, fax machines, and now email.


Why I hate the word/idea of "Slacktivism"
  1. Some people actually do activism online because they don’t have the support, resources, or safety needed to actually do offline activism. Shocking, I know.
  2. Y'know that people can and often do spearhead a lot more progress online than offline, right? No shade @ the folks who are about the offline Streetrunner life, but the Internet is a GREAT way to get news out about your organization.

And finally, because I’m not the first nigga to say this:

  1. Please don’t ask people for receipts or resumes on some stuff based off of your own prejudices . Too many people think everyone lives that  EI am so special look at my credentials/acquisitions life E, so that if people don’t consistently list how they are succeeding/consuming/verified by hegemony  they don’t have them. That’s not true . Resumes are often the least interesting thing about people. and the thing they most often have to prove offline so , it’s not shocking to me at least that folks don’t spend time on their personal spaces trying to prove their existences that way.
  2. Following that vein of though; It leaves me with the giggles that five years later some shit still holds true. That the assumption is that someone who doesn’t automatically default to wanting a cookie for achievements and respectability, marked by thinly veiled policing of everyone else’s choices is assumed to be unaccomplished. WHen this shit went around with white feminists , it was posited that we were poor and jealous , now it’s uneducated and inactive. Once again I may be one of ( and i May be overestimating my shit if I’m even included) but of the maybe 6 folks I’m assuming “shots Ewe fired at . 4/6 are in the process of or hold post bacc degrees.

Yeah, I’m pretty much done here. First AND final words.

You can live your life, or you can meet that made-up elf chick.

5 Ways the Internet Steals Your Soul

#3. The Internet Makes You … Only Calm Enough to Do Nothing

Online, you can always find your own quiet corner where people are talking about nothing. And it’s easy to stay there because look how many millions are also doing nothing with you. And they’re not starving to death or homeless, so it must be OK. You’ll all do nothing together. No demands, no decisions, and even the most vitriolic debates are over topics as transient as the packets of information traveling along fiber-optic cable. A place where you can pretend to do things, whether it’s tweeting the weather, tagging some photos, or building a collage. It’s work. The kind that leaves you with a slower pulse, but no other tangible reward, and one more day lost.

Read More

Equality Golbat: “Before you question the validity of internet activists, consider the fact that the police usually come to protests.”

How many times have we said this? If you are black, or latin@, or transgender, or disabled, the police are more likely to kill you than protect you. Most protests throughout history were perfectly safe UNTIL the police showed up.


today in my political communication class a kid vilified “slacktivism” because it’s “all talk and no action”

in a political communication class

a class literally about how important communication and mass media is


Likes Don’t Save Lives

UNICEF Sweden has a new ad campaign reminding people that while social media Likes are nice, what they really need is money to fund their vaccination campaigns.

As The Verge points out, “Facebook likes aren’t treated as currency in other commercial venues, so they shouldn’t be equated with charitable donations.”

And via The Atlantic:

In the beginning, organizations wanted you to like the heck out of their Facebook pages. Why? You know, community-building, awareness-raising, general “engagement”-upping…

…But one thing clicking “like” doesn’t do is, say, get malaria nets to African villages or boost funding for charity groups. And now that Facebook is nearly 9 years old and Twitter is 7, we’re seeing the inevitable backlash against social-media “slacktivism.”

Back to The Verge:

The campaign, created by ad agency Forsman & Bodenfors, takes a rather bold stance against the awareness campaigns that often spread across Facebook and other social media platforms. UNICEF officials acknowledge that such efforts can help introduce issues to a wider audience, though they fear that for most users, the action stops with the click of a button. To further stress this point, UNICEF Sweden released a bold poster alongside the video clips, saying that every like it receives on Facebook will result in exactly zero vaccinations.

That’s not to say “slacktivists” are a bad thing. Liking, sharing and reblogging do serve their purpose in bringing issues to a wider audience. But then what?

Last year, The Atlantic notes, Zeynep Tufekci, a sociology professor and a fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society, had this to say:

What is called commonly called slacktivism is not at all about “slacking activists;” rather it is about non-activists taking symbolic action–often in spheres traditionally engaged only by activists or professionals (governments, NGOs, international institutions.). Since these so-called “slacktivists” were never activists to begin with, they are not in dereliction of their activist duties. On the contrary, they are acting, symbolically and in a small way, in a sphere that has traditionally been closed off to “the masses” in any meaningful fashion.

The goal then for those working in social media is to simultaneously help the “slacktivist” set help you by building out ambient awareness of an issue through the messaging you create, while also giving activists and more consistently loyal proponents direct calls to action be it donations, volunteerism, network building, etc.

Meantime, if you’re moved to Like a cause, consider volunteering your time and/or other resources to it as well.

The other two commercials in UNICEF’s campaign can be viewed at The Verge. – Michael