How The Equality Symbol Spread Through Facebook

By Justin Lafferty 

On March 26, several people all over Facebook changed their profile photos to red and light-shaded equality signs in support of the Human Rights Campaign and same-sex marriage. While Facebook couldn’t track specifically the numbers of those who changed their profile pictures to this image, the site’s data science team tracked how many users changed their profile photos that day — an increase of 120 percent.

Facebook discovered that the rise in profile photo changes happened not long after the HRC urged people at 1 p.m. ET to change their photo.

The site then broke it down by age, finding that users closest to 30 changed their profile photos more March 26 than any other demographic.

On the left chart, Facebook compared those who changed their profile photos March 26 (red) with those who did so the week before (black). On the right chart is an age breakdown of Facebook users who changed their photos March 26.

Facebook reports that on average, roughly 3.5 percent of 30-year-old Facebook users updated their profile photos that day. Additionally, 2.3 percent more women changed their photos, compared with 2.1 percent more men.

Facebook also broke down profile photo changes by county, showing that Facebook users near colleges were more apt to change their photos that day. The county with the most profile photo changes was Washtenaw County — home of the University of Michigan. Roughly 6.2 percent of users in that county changed their profile photos March 26. San Francisco County, San Mateo County, and Washington, D.C., also rated highly.

Here’s the nationwide map, with red counties showing higher percentages of profile photo changes.

Readers: Did you change your profile photo that day?