?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

more on the FB avatar thing

Over at Scientific American, Melanie Tannenbaum has a really interesting take on the way a lot of people over at FB changed their avatars to red equal signs.


http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/psysociety/2013/03/28/marriage-equality-and-social-proof/


The tl;dr version: people respond more to descriptive claims (everyone else is already doing X) to prescriptive claims (you should do X). She has some good scientific studies to back her up on this point, and my own experience in the classroom bears it out. My first tendency when talking about plagiarism was to emphasize how easy and common it was to accidentally use a source without giving it credit, as a way to encourage students to be extra-careful to guard against this proclivity. But that just gave my students at least a psychological excuse to not take plagiarism so seriously. After all, if “everyone fell into it,” it wasn’t so bad when they did this, too. (Do read the whole thing if you’re interested; it’s fascinating.)


I found the science really interesting generally; I’d heard people warn me against being too empathetic, letting my students think that “everyone did it” for just this reason, but never read about all the studies. But more than that, thinking about the FB avatar issue, this really cleared up for me why I was bothered enough by it to post about it here. I don’t doubt that the “everybody already believes this” (or values this, or does this, etc.) approach works. I’ve seen it play out in my own life too much to think otherwise. But I like to think that my own support of marriage equality and other gender- and sexuality-based issues goes deeper than “all my friends already believe this.” I like to believe it’s because I’ve really thought things through and think the case for opening up marriage to LGBT people makes more sense than the case for restricting it to opposite-gender people.


And I also like to think that other people I interact with –and I’m talking about coming from all sides of this issue– are capable of this kind of reasoning. Obviously we live in a world where the majority’s opinion carries a lot of weight. LGBT advocates rightly point to the fact that the majority of Americans support marriage equality, because American society puts a lot of stock in the importance of majority opinions. And for that reason alone, if you gave me the choice between a lot of people opposing marriage equality or supporting marriage equality for the wrong reasons, I’d take door #2. But I still think people can and should believe things for the right reason – not because their friends believe it, but for whatever reason because they actually think it’s true or good. And this is important. I think this is why I found myself nodding at Leonard Pitts’ editorial on Rob Portman last week: it’s obviously good that a GOP senator turned himself around on gay marriage, but I wish he would have done it for some other reason than the issue impacted him personally. This was the right position long before he discovered his son was gay.


I really do get that for many people the decision to change their avatar had very little to do with being persuasive. They just wanted to show support for their friends who happen to be gay. Part of why I felt I could pass, and why I was affected by other aspects of the change, was I thought I was already showing my support in other ways. And I really don’t want to come off as beating up on folks who chose to show their support this way. I guess for me it just seems like one more symptom of a pervasive disease: the way so many people make up their minds for reasons that have little to do with what’s actually true or good. But that may be my inner philosopher speaking more than anything. In any event, that’s the thing about the change that seemed most “real” to me, most important.


Whether you agree or disagree with me on that point, I think the article is fascinating. I hope you’ll enjoy it too.




Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
aearwen2
Mar. 29th, 2013 05:34 pm (UTC)
*digs out my official "Devil's Advocate" beanie from my cosplay closet*

I'm gonna offer you an alternate response here - in complete knowledge that, like you, I really don't do things "just because everybody else is doing it":

The LGBT community has been so overwhelmed by negative responses, feedback and discrimination for so long that for them to see an overwhelmingly positive response might be enough to give some who were afraid to openly be who they really were the strength to drop the fear away.

Illustration:

My transgendered daughter in OR recently faced a number of incidents where someone at the place she worked "outed" her at work to customers. She was terribly upset by these incidents, and really fearful of what might happen if the knowledge became commonplace. Even though OR in general and Eugene in particular has a very high level of LGBT support among the community, there are always those "red-necks" who feel it their bounden duty to harrass and even assault them because they're "different." Squeek herself was once chased around by a man with a shotgun for having "non-traditional" leanings, so this fear was experience-based and quite reasonable. The upshot of this tale is that she finally took the bull by the horns and "outed" herself to her workmates - the result being that there was nothing left to fear at work. Her bosses now knew - and she didn't lose her job. Her workmates now knew. And those who hassled her about it afterwards were, understandably, called on the carpet for it because sexual orientation has nothing to do with work performance.

I think that in many ways, the LGBT community has a desperate need to see that support for them and their causes has reached a tipping point among Americans at large - and that FB, as a premier social media, was an ideal place to reflect that support in a measurable way.

Probably, had that red equal sign not gone viral in the avatar fields, I would have changed my avatar - because I feel it extremely important to let them know that there are people out there who do support them and their causes. Thankfully, there were enough folks that did show that support that you and I could stand back a bit and comment on how folks respond to "everybody's doing it" - having a beneficial example to point to for illustration of the dynamics of mass thinking.

*doffs official Devil's Advocate hat back into the closet and scuttles back into the Lurker's Corner*
marta_bee
Mar. 29th, 2013 06:23 pm (UTC)
That's a really good point, Aearwen, and thanks as always for kicking the tires a bit. I don't know that I ever would have changed my pic, and I probably would have been my critical self (in the sense of offering fair criticism - not being negative) because at heart that's who I am. I am analytical and a thinker, and while I completely get that not everyone is like that, I also am getting more comfortable these days that that's a big part of me.

All of that said: I think I feel more comfortable to talk about stuff like this simply because the whole avatar business went so viral. It makes me think there's less chance (though probably not no chance) that my posts will be taken as saying LGBT people don't deserve full rights, or a public show of respect and approval after all they've been through over the years.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

Profile

marta_bee
fidesquaerens
Website

Latest Month

October 2019
S M T W T F S
  12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Tags

Page Summary

Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Tiffany Chow