I have a lot of Facebook friends, most of whom I've never met in real life. Many of whom I both respect and like — at least as much as I do know them. On Tuesday, each time I checked Facebook — I swear that's actually a huge chunk of my job — another bunch of them had turned their profile pics from smiling selfies and family portraits to the red-and-pink equal sign the Human Rights Campaign rolled out as the nation's highest court began hearing two same-sex marriage cases. Was I supposed to follow suit?
"Follow @HRC on Twitter and at www.hrc.org/blog for live-updates from the first day of at the Supreme Court hearings," read the HRC's early morning post. "Make sure you wear red to show your support for marriage equality. And make your Facebook profile red too!"
Once everyone's favorite Facebook photo-sharer, George Takei (Star Trek's "Sulu!" duh), changed his profile pic the special-issue logo went critical mass. (As of 7 p.m. Eastern, Takei's pic had received roughly 68,000 likes and 23,000 shares.)
Well, you know I love me some Takei, and I, too, was encouraged to go red. "I'ma pretend your red hair is following the new red marriage equality trend for the Supreme Court stuff today/tomorrow =P," one of my awesome Facebook friends posted on my profile. Alas, as much as I am a fan of every American receiving his or her full civil rights — and federally acknowledged marriage provides much that a shamefully large percentage are legally forbidden from accessing — jumping on board the social media status activism makes me feel ... fake.
Remember that one time we turned our Twitter avatars green, and totally won democracy in Iran? Remember that time we totally cured breast cancer by posting our bra color on Facebook? I'm just not a big fan of empty gestures. And honestly? You know the Supreme Court justices are too busy to be checking out Facebook right now. ... Well, maybe not Scalia. Just kidding! You know Scalia's a Pinterest man!
"It's to spread the word about what's going on," one of the more patient-with-me explained regarding the red-and-pink revolution. "I have had a lot of people ask me about my profile picture today."
So here's the thing. Iran and Hezbollah are reportedly besties — maybe with a 50,000-strong force to help the Syrian regime. The National Institutes of Health awarded breast cancer research more than twice what it gives any other cancer, long before you posted your bra color, and yet an estimated $6 billion in charity is raised every year in the name of breast cancer. That's a lot of pink tchotchkes! What's more, the Human Rights Campaign has had its share of criticism within the LGBT community.
BUT! I will give you this: Unlike Iran and breast cancer, gays visible in our community (as opposed to closeted), and vocal acceptance does increase tolerance. Dan Savage, the sex advice columnist behind the "It Gets Better Project," which encourages LGBT teens to stay alive, regularly advises young gay people that even if their parents shun them at first, many eventually come around for those they love.
So. You know. I ain't mad atcha for changing your profile pic. But do me this solid and don't just change your profile pic. Give at least $1 to a smart charity that shares the same mission you do. No matter how the Supreme Court lands on this (and right now kids, it don't look good), your actual bonafide efforts will be appreciated. The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization for LGBT teens, and the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) do a lot of good work. So do other organizations the Internet will help you discover. And many could use your help — they just probably won't look at your Facebook status.