With the recent terrorist acts worldwide, social media users have been taking to their accounts in order to show support for those affected, let family and friends know they are safe, and to help others locate important safety resources. Platforms like Facebook and Snapchat provide users with filters to put over their photos in the wake of these tragedies as an act of solidarity and support.
The Pew Research Center has just released a study in collaboration with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which finds that 18% of social media users have changed their profile pictures to bring awareness to a particular issue or event. An article posted on Fact Tank sums up a few of the major results of this study, results that provide insight regarding how people are expressing support and/or solidarity in times of distress. As someone who has always enjoyed social science research, I found this study to be very interesting!
As the chart above shows, The Paris attacks and LGBT rights are the top two reasons people changing their profile pictures. A total of 42% of those who have ever changed their profile picture to draw attention to an event or issue made the change because of the Paris attacks. It is worth noting that the survey was conducted prior to the attacks in Belgium and Pakistan.
The study also looks at various demographics, and how differences in social media responses emerge based on factors such as race, gender, and age. More women (20%) than men changed their profile photo to show support for a particular issue or event, and more liberals (26%) changed their photos than conservatives. When race was examined, Blacks (28%) changed their photos more than Latinos or Whites. It is fascinating to know that someone’s political ideologies or race may have an influence on what they post online, and how they express support through their social media platforms. I would be interested to know how socioeconomic status/class might affect we show support for one another (or don’t) on social media.
More specific to the actual online activity, I question how Facebook and other platforms make the decision to offer filters for some of these issues and events, and not others. For example, Facebook’s safety checks did not occur during some of the recent attacks (although apparently Facebook has made some errors in the way they release their safety check function), and the option to change profile pictures with a filter was not available following the recent attacks in Pakistan.
To read more about the Pew Research’s Center’s findings regarding social media and support, click here!