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Why I changed my profile picture to a big beautiful rainbow

By Shannon Williams, 02 Jul 2015
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Everyone knows by now that social media networks are a huge platform to spread an agenda, show support, raise funds, or spread hate. 

It’s also an easy way to jump on bandwagons and pretend you support a cause you did nothing to help. 

Whether it’s an ice bucket challenge, a make-up free selfie, a silly status update or a magical fricken rainbow, people like to use Facebook as a launch pad to show their friends what good people they think they are.

I want to know why jumping on bandwagons is a bad thing. Do you have to be first, do you have to be original? 

This week web browsers around the globe lit up as Facebook users responded to the news that same-sex marriage was made a right across all 50 states in the U.S. 

This is when 'raising awareness' actually works.

Facebook launched a Celebrate Pride tool that enabled its users to add the colours of the rainbow to their profile pictures. 

More than 26 million people changed their profile pictures following the ruling. 

Changing your profile picture or updating your Facebook status isn’t going to change laws. One rainbow profile picture isn’t going to instantaneously change the minds of the many people out there who, for whatever reason, believe that gay people shouldn’t be allowed to marry. 

So why do it? Are you just conforming? Are you just doing a simple one-click act that makes you look like you give a crap about an issue that has been made popular by celebrities?  

Maybe. But you’re also showing those in your social circles what you care about, and it’s showing them you’re not afraid to do so. 

Mass support of real issues such as marriage equality can change social attitudes. Mainstream awareness and acceptance can change and has changed lives. It invites people to learn more about issues they may once have known little about. In that vain, social media is crucial to spreading knowledge and opening minds. 

People are far more likely to stand up for a cause if their social circle is too, there’s no denying that. But whether that’s jumping on a bandwagon or simply just not having the courage to do it on your own is irrelevant. Whether people changed their profiles  because “everyone else is doing it”, or they’ve done it to show solidarity, at the end of the day humanity came a long way when the internet turned into a rainbow. 

Openly declaring your support for controversial topics such as this forces people to think about that issue, even if it is for just a second. For someone who sees your profile, or many profiles, changed to a rainbow, it may open their mind up even just a tiny bit. And that’s huge. 

I pose the question to those who think changing your profile picture to a rainbow doesn’t matter, or thinks it is stupid: is celebrating the decision in a parade on the street stupid too? Is this just not the digitised version? Is it not the quickest, most simple way to show your friends, your co-workers, your family, that you are absolutely stoked the U.S. Government is finally respecting a person’s right to marry whoever they bloody hell want to? 

And by condemning those who jumped on the rainbow profile parade, aren't you potentially discouraging those people who may have wanted to change their picture for solidarity's sake, but didn't do so out of fear that they would be called stupid, or a sheep, or whatever?

A friend of my argued that walking in a parade was far more commendable than changing your profile picture. He said participating in a parade took effort, and changing your photo was just plain lazy. I'll give him that. It took absolutely no effort whatsoever to use the Facebook tool. My question is though, so what? Why does that even matter? If a flood of rainbows that took point two of a second to create has an impact and shows the people on my newsfeed what I am celebrating, good. 

On that note, it wasn't just us lazy folk changing our profile pictures to celebrate this milestone. Corporations across the world jumped on board too, changing their branding to include the rainbow colours. People shouldn't underestimate what this means either. If big-name companies are showing their support, showing they are celebrating the Supreme Court decision, it is showing people that that company isn't afraid to show the world - their customers, their board members - what they stand for. Imagine what that could mean to that company's staff; that their employer isn't afraid to show they support them. And a business changing their branding to support something that has been this controversial across the world for decades is by no means lazy, regardless of what that company may or may not have done behind the scenes to support the marriage equality movement. 

Your social profile influences others. Every post you put up about culture, politics, the news, whatever – you affect people. That’s not always good. Uninformed people can be lead to believe something that is not true, can be lead to hating things they shouldn’t hate, because their minds are being influenced by what you are putting up on the internet. 

But if changing your profile picture to a rainbow influences just one person, and they consider learning more about what marriage equality is, and why it is important, then that’s a bandwagon I want to be on. 

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