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Posted on Fri, Mar 29, 2013 : 4:43 p.m.

Washtenaw County led country in changing Facebook profile picture for marriage equality

By Kody Klein

If you've uttered the sentence "My Facebook newsfeed seems to be nothing but equal signs lately," you're not alone — especially if you live in Washtenaw County.

Facebook officials reported that people from Washtenaw County were more likely to change their profile picture to the pink-on-red equal sign than those from any other county in the country.

The symbol, which is advocated by the Human Rights Campaign, is meant to show Facebook users' support for marriage equality.

Researchers with Facebook compiled massive amounts of data, tracking the effects of the HRC's campaign on Facebook users. Though people change their profile photos every day, analysts observed a spike in the trend corresponding with the time at which the HRC began urging people to upload the equals sign at 1 p.m. on Monday.

The next day, roughly 2.7 million more people changed their profile picture than the previous Tuesday — an increase of 120 percent.

After analyzing the data based on location, Facebook analysts determined the greatest increase of people changing their profile pictures occurred in Washtenaw County, where an estimated 6.2 percent of people who logged into Facebook changed their picture in response to the campaign.

The primary researcher, and author of the analysis, Eytan Bakshy, is an alumnus from the University of Michigan.

Kody Klein is an intern for Reach him at


Dog Guy

Sun, Mar 31, 2013 : 4:56 p.m.

The Washtenaw Borg has spoken. Resistance is futile.

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Mar 31, 2013 : 4 p.m.

I'm torn on this. On one hand, it's nice to show support for human rights. On the other hand, it seems too easy and trite and Ann Arbory and self-congratulatory. But at least 20% of my friends did it. I didn't. I posted my meaningless support anonymously in the comments section of a blog instead. How courageous of all of us.

Jack Gladney

Sat, Mar 30, 2013 : 10:39 p.m.

I had more friends who dared me to beat them at Candy Crush, asked me to buy a pig or join them in Mafia Wars than changed their FB pics. I also need to congratulate my friend Lisa on her FIFTY STAR Tweet yesterday! That's a 5, followed by a 0! She won a trophy for it too. I bet she is gonna take her trophy along with her Farmville pig everywhere.


Sat, Mar 30, 2013 : 10:35 p.m.

"If Jesus came back today, and saw what was going on in his name, he'd never stop throwing up." Max Von Sydow quote 1


Sun, Mar 31, 2013 : 12:29 p.m.

Von Sydow was not talking about gay marriage. There are much bigger things in the world to be disgusted by.

Homeland Conspiracy

Sun, Mar 31, 2013 : 2:54 a.m.

My comment did NOT break any of your so called conversation guidelines....not even close...but this guy can make fudge packing jokes about gays & it doesn't get censored. Get your act together!!!


Sat, Mar 30, 2013 : 4:12 p.m.

Don't get me wrong, it's great that many people in this area are not outright bigots, but all this really shows is that people in Washtenaw County really, really like improving their "personal diversity brand" on Facebook, since it takes no more work than a few button clicks. Sorta-tech-savvy community + liberal pretensions = overabundance of digital activism.


Sun, Mar 31, 2013 : 3:11 a.m.

Agreed - It is very easy to do what is PC correct. Sort of ........just follow the band.:) They are showing nothing by this, except FOLLOWING the crowd. It is the RIGHT thing to do (in their mind). Kind of sad when you think about it. The big UM and it 's supposed intellectual superiority over other schools. At the end of the day, it is nothing more then the pied piper and the mice........:)


Sat, Mar 30, 2013 : 2:08 p.m.

Kody: Please correct the grammar. It should be "effects." The noun. Not "... tracking the affects of the HRC's campaign on Facebook users." Thanks.

Kody Klein

Sun, Mar 31, 2013 : 1:55 a.m.

Thanks for pointing out that typo :)


Sat, Mar 30, 2013 : 2:07 p.m.

What a nice thing to be number one at. Makes me very happy to live in Washtenaw


Sun, Mar 31, 2013 : 12:52 a.m.

YOU are joking. Right?


Sat, Mar 30, 2013 : 1:45 p.m.

Really, facebook pictures. Must have been a very slow news day.

dading dont delete me bro

Sat, Mar 30, 2013 : 1:07 p.m.

i am sure washtenaw county was the leader in this fb campaign


Sun, Mar 31, 2013 : 3:13 a.m.

Homeland - !st Amendment rights! I do believe.........:)

Homeland Conspiracy

Sun, Mar 31, 2013 : 1:29 a.m.

JBK statement is proof that pick & choose what gets censored...

Mary Ann Barbary

Sat, Mar 30, 2013 : 11:40 a.m.

It certainly is much easier to be out in this community today than 25 years ago -- that's how long my partner & I have been waiting to be married.

Elijah Shalis

Sat, Mar 30, 2013 : 2:43 p.m.

Wow 25 years is a long time, we are at 9 1/2 years. I want to go to Windsor and do it this year.


Sat, Mar 30, 2013 : 2:40 p.m.

Mary Ann, I salute the both of you! May the day come soon when you and your partner can get married. Gay or Straight, Love is Great!! sign me, straight but not narrow, Madeleine Baier

Cole Bertsos

Sat, Mar 30, 2013 : 11:15 a.m.

Buzzfeed also featured this more in-depth look at the data researchers found — it's pretty interesting!

Ricardo Queso

Sat, Mar 30, 2013 : 5:46 a.m.



Sat, Mar 30, 2013 : 5:41 a.m.

I love all the variations out there! I had a Battlestar Galactica "So Say We All" and now a Doctor Who one. Now I need a Firefly one.


Sat, Mar 30, 2013 : 4:03 a.m.

This is a rare opportunity to contrast the overwhelmingly-progressive nature of the community as a whole to its online commenting community. And I'm actually surprised at how evenly-split the comments are. I would expect the haters to be piling on at least two-to-one, as they usually do.


Sat, Mar 30, 2013 : 12:46 a.m.

Wow! I also didn't change my pic but support marriage equality. I'm just surprised... we beat out WeHo (West Hollywood) and Silver Lake and various places in the Bay Area? And Minneapolis?


Sat, Mar 30, 2013 : 12:37 a.m.

I changed mine to a red plus sign in support of marriage between one man and one woman.

Usual Suspect

Sat, Mar 30, 2013 : 1:15 p.m.

Is OK... I understand late night clicky-clicky.


Sat, Mar 30, 2013 : 5:32 a.m.

Sorry suspect, I meant to up vote you.

Usual Suspect

Sat, Mar 30, 2013 : 4:26 a.m.

I changed mine to something completely meaningless just so people would think I was deep.


Sat, Mar 30, 2013 : 1:12 a.m.

me too.

Elijah Shalis

Sat, Mar 30, 2013 : 12:11 a.m.

I didn't change my photo but I am a HRC Member. I am glad liberal washtenaw county led in this.

Dog Guy

Sat, Mar 30, 2013 : 12:04 a.m.

I have the original maize and blue Human Rights Campaign equal-sign logo on my van to proclaim that the leader and best endowed with $7,700,000,000.00 is exactly equal with all other colleges.

Dog Guy

Fri, Mar 29, 2013 : 10:32 p.m.

Klein writes "The symbol, which is advocated by the Human Rights Campain, is meant to show . . . " Is "Campain" editorializing?

Kody Klein

Fri, Mar 29, 2013 : 10:50 p.m.

Oops my bad! Thanks for pointing it out.


Fri, Mar 29, 2013 : 10:26 p.m.

After being a serious political embarrassment for the past two years, Michigan finally has something to be proud of.


Sat, Mar 30, 2013 : 5:33 a.m.

Yes, thankfully RTW passed.


Sat, Mar 30, 2013 : 1:10 a.m.

yes. gender-less marriage slacktivism should make us proud.

Morris Thorpe

Fri, Mar 29, 2013 : 10:06 p.m.

Thank you all. Your bravery will NOT be forgotten.

Usual Suspect

Sat, Mar 30, 2013 : 4:24 a.m.



Sat, Mar 30, 2013 : 1:10 a.m.

yes. gender-less marriage slacktivism currently passes for bravery.

5c0++ H4d13y

Sat, Mar 30, 2013 : 12:56 a.m.



Fri, Mar 29, 2013 : 9:35 p.m.

Proud to live in Washtenaw County.

Dog Guy

Fri, Mar 29, 2013 : 8:58 p.m.

Ann Arbor deserves a name change to Manor Farmville now that The Seven Commandments are reduced to a single phrase: "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others".


Fri, Mar 29, 2013 : 9:14 p.m.

George Orwell must be rolling over in his grave.