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Commentary: Social media changing the face of online arguments, views on equality

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Facebook has been looking pretty red lately due to the mass of people changing their profile pictures and banners to red equal signs in support of marriage equality.

Your Facebook friends aren’t the only ones taking sides in the battle between those for gay marriage and those who are against it, as musicians have also been taking a stance on the issue – sometimes to the detriment of their career. 

Social media has dominated some pretty heavy issues from the May 2011 killing of Osama Bin Laden to the election in November, and I personally know people who solely receive news through Facebook, Twitter or some other social media outlet. 

But what impact does this have on campaigns, be it for politics or an issue like gay marriage? The red equal sign that covered Facebook – and still remains on some profiles – is just another way technology and the amount of time people spend on social media sites has changed the way hot topics are handled. 

Is Facebook ready for that though?

American country music singer Willie Nelson was recently pictured holding up a customized red equality sign. Rather than the traditional equal sign, two braids that looked like smoking joints were depicted, two things for which the music veteran is known. 

Continuing the red theme, Beyoncé posted an Instagram picture of a red note with the handwritten words, “If you like it you should be able to put a ring on it” and “#wewillunite4marriageequality!” Last year her husband, Jay-Z, also openly announced his support of gay marriage. 

Boy Scouts of America has been receiving a considerable amount of criticism due to its policy against gay scouts and gay masters. At the 24th Annual Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Awards on March 16, Madonna showed up in a Cub Scout Uniform, telling the audience she had been denied from becoming a Boy Scout despite her interest, according to Huffington Post. During her speech at the awards she openly disagreed with the organization’s stance towards gays and its refusal to revise its rules. 

After the awards, GLAAD also went after pop-rock band Train and Carly Rae Jepsen for their scheduled spots at the 2013 National Scout Jamboree, a celebration of scouting, and according to Huffington Post, just hours after the statement from GLAAD was issued, Train announced via its website that it would no longer be performing at the Jamboree. The ultimatum: a revised policy from BSA, lifting the ban on gays in its organization. Jepsen also took her name off the bill and announced via Twitter she would no longer be playing at the show. 

BSA is no stranger to criticism though, and it seems doubtful that the withdrawal of two pop stars will change much. 

Hip-hop duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis starred in a video for the “You Can Play” project. The pro-gay group is specifically focused on equal rights for gays to play in sports and decreasing homophobia within the sports arena. Current and former Ohio State’s men’s ice hockey team also created a video for the “You Can Play” group, showcasing members of the team supporting homosexuality within athletics, which the team featured at its first ever “pride night” in support of eliminating homophobia in sports.

On the flip side, alternative folk singer, Michelle Shocked, is feeling the wrath of the public in the aftermath of her alleged anti-gay statements on March 17 while in San Francisco. According to Huffington Post, the singer said in her second set at Yoshi’s, a jazz club and restaurant, “I live in fear, that the world will be destroyed if gays are allowed to marry.”

This all seems a little odd, considering the woman once came out as a lesbian. 

The club apparently emptied after her anti-gay speech. 

According to NBC Bay Area, she has taken a pretty hard hit in the wave of backlash that has happened in the weeks after the show. Her publicist is gone. Her booking agent is gone, and the Twitterverse has moved to engaging in full fledged battles on the Twitterfront verses Shocked. 

Since then, Shocked has issued an apology for her rant, saying what she had intended to say was misinterpreted. 

Despite the apology, venues across the nation are no longer allowing her inside the doors, and nearly her entire tour has been canceled as a result of the San Francisco speech. 

While the attention is largely negative, this is the most that Shocked has been in the public eye for years, and the controversy surrounding her statements at Yoshi’s isn’t stopping. 

In response she showed up to one of her canceled gigs. According to The New York Times, Shocked went to Moe’s Alley in Santa Cruz, Calif., and sat herself down outside the club. Covered in a disposable safety suit with her mouth duct-taped shut, she played outside the venue that had canceled her show. Those who walked by were invited to write their thoughts and reactions on her suit with markers. 

Does this do any good though?

The damage has been done, and according to The New York Times, the owner of the club had no intentions of giving her the stage back. 

Shocked cannot change the result of her personal outcry against the gay community, but what I am wondering is who else is out there? She can’t be the only one who feels that way, but lately she is the only one who has had the nerve to actually say it. 

Celebrities in favor of gay marriage have had no issue being open in their stance, but the public has also made it a lot easier on them. Being in the majority is always easier.

The onset of social media has taken away the diversity of opinions. 

Regardless of the issue, Facebook and Twitter have become the unofficial forum to voice beliefs about anything. It’s the social part of the social media.

Somewhere in there though, the voice of the minority was lost, most likely due to fear of repercussions. That apprehension to write a status about gay marriage, politics or anything else will have consequences of its own, though. 

Just like the pinked-out photos for breast cancer awareness, the red equal signs went viral, as did the belief that everyone is for gay marriage. But that popular change to red on Facebook makes me wonder if social media has made it nearly impossible for all voices to be heard without being completely torn apart by peers within the safe confines of Facebook posts and Twitter wars.  

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