Facebook put the power of social media data to the test when it provided statistical information mapping the nature of change with the Human Rights Campaign red and pink equal sign. An increase in profile updates were strong with people in between the ages of 20 to 40 and female users were more likely than males to update their profile pictures. However, the piece of information that proved to be the most intriguing was the map that displayed geographical differences throughout the United States.
A prominent disparity between the South and part of the Midwest showcases the fact that one important battle for marriage equality that has to be taken into account.
Areas of darker red signal higher levels of profile picture changes, while lighter areas represent lower levels. But even then, the distinctions provided aren't as clear-cut as they could be. Even more specific than regional differences are differences between counties. Washtenaw County in Michigan saw the biggest boost in profile picture changes. In Texas, there is a splash of bright red in a sea of pale pink, which more than likely represents a college town. College towns in general were a haven for a high profile turnout while surprisingly, large cities such as New York and Los Angeles, did not show overwhelming amounts of change. Still, by far, the South fell behind the curve, and persisting cultural attitudes and norms may very well be the reason.
The South is known to be staunchly conservative, home to politically red states and most importantly, home to the Bible Belt. With that particular area of the U.S. so firmly rooted to the tradition of Protestantism, it is no surprise that one might encounter less support from a town in Alabama compared to one in Vermont or California. Due to varying social norms, gay marriage can easily get passed as it has in New York, but not in Texas.
In Europe, countries such as Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Belgium have legalized gay marriage. In France, the United Kingdom, and Luxembourg, future legislation will also soon see a passage of gay marriage into law. Recently, I wrote a long-form piece exploring why it appeared entire European countries — some known to be resolutely religious — were able to pass gay marriage laws faster than many U.S. states. Were our European contemporaries simply more liberal than us? The answer I discovered after holding several Skype interviews with individuals from Ireland, the Netherlands, and Italy was one I didn't give much consideration to up until that point. Liberalism was not necessarily a selling point. It was of their opinion that the U.S. was too large and extremely diverse compared to more homogeneous countries that weren’t as imbued with the pros and cons of of a melting pot.
So for as long as the U.S. remains socially and culturally divided as well as geographically dispersed, there are certain issues that are bound to meet with friction. This facet of our livelihood proves to be one of our nation’s greatest strengths, but also one of greatest, splintered, weaknesses.