Case Study: Marriage equality, Facebook profile pictures, and civic participation

Brady Jay Robards, Bob Buttigieg

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review


On March 25, 2013, the 'Human Rights Campaign’ (HRC) – a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) lobby – urged people to change their Facebook profile pictures to a pink-on-red equals sign to show support for marriage equality (see fig. 1). The campaign corresponded with a U.S. Supreme Court meeting to debate the issue. Shortly after, on March 30, Eytan Bashky (2013) from the Facebook data science team reported that ‘roughly 2.7 million (120%) more [users], updated their profile photo on Tuesday, March 26 compared to the previous Tuesday’, which was roughly attributed to the HRC push. The campaign to change Facebook profile pictures spread to become a global phenomenon. Variations on the HRC profile picture emerged, some in support of the campaign, others opposing it, and others critiquing the impact changing one’s profile picture can have. In this case study, we explore the campaign through the lens of the ‘actualising citizen’ (Miegel and Olsson 2007) and discourses around ‘slacktivism’ (Christensen 2011).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCivic media
Subtitle of host publicationTechnology, Design, Practice
EditorsEric Gordon, Paul Mihailidis
Place of PublicationCambridge MA USA
PublisherThe MIT Press
Number of pages6
ISBN (Print)9780262034272
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

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