By Jarrett Barrios, President of GLAAD
On October 20, America ‘went purple.’
The idea was simple: wear purple to send a message to LGBT youth that there’s nothing wrong with being who you are. What followed, however, was an unprecedented tidal wave of support. From the Today Show to the Tonight Show, millions of students, teachers, celebrities, news personalities, advocates and allies wore the color to combat anti-LGBT bullying.
The idea came from a young Canadian teenager who simply posted a message on her blog – “Spirit Day,” she said, would pay ode to those who lost their lives recently due to bullying. Soon, with the help of social media, millions caught on.
We know that Corporate America has embraced social media, but now our advocacy organizations need to do the same. Blogs and social media have, indeed, redefined activism by giving voice to those who previously had none. The internet has allowed users to start conversations that have the potential to ‘go viral’ and reach millions. Additionally, social media has changed the dynamics of communication and advocacy by allowing users to demonstrate their support for a cause through simple actions like a Facebook status update or a tweet.
The Spirit Day idea resonated because it didn’t ask people to meet at a certain location, donate money or write a letter, it simply encouraged them to send a strong and powerful message to LGBT youth by wearing a certain color. It was easy to understand, execute and share.
A Facebook page devoted to Spirit Day quickly attracted over 1.5 million people. After supporters alerted the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) to a barrage of violent and hateful comments posted to this Spirit Day page, we worked with Facebook to improve the way the site responds to violent, anti-LGBT comments. On Spirit Day, Facebook, GLAAD, other LGBT organizations and MTV announced a new partnership and public education campaign called “Network of Support” which will help users understand the dangers of anti-LGBT cyber-bullying.
GLAAD also launched a digital component to Spirit Day, inspiring hundreds of thousands of people, including celebrities like Cyndi Lauper, Ricky Martin, Ryan Seacrest and Perez Hilton among several others, to ‘go purple’ on Facebook and Twitter using a GLAAD-created Twibbon.
As support for equality continues to grow, engaging and activating people through social media is paramount to growing acceptance of our community among Americans. From there, our voice can only get louder.