Those red-and-pink equal signs all over Facebook were pretty much impossible to miss this week when the Supreme Court took up the same-sex marriage issue, and now there are numbers to prove it.
Facebook has estimated that approximately 2.7 million more people than usual changed their profile images Tuesday after the Human Rights Campaign advocacy group encouraged users to show their support for marriage equality.
Though the 2.7 million number isn’t specific to people who switched their photos to the equal sign — or any of its corgi, bacon or Passover matzoh variations — Facebook’s data science team says it’s a 120 percent increase in people who changed their picture compared to the previous week.
That’s not all — Facebook also mapped out the parts of the country that were most likely to change their photos:
Many of the top 25 counties that showed the greatest support for HRC’s campaign were home to college towns, including Orange (University of North Carolina), Durham (Duke University), Monroe (Indiana University), Johnson (University of Iowa), Athens (Ohio University), Dane (University of Wisconsin), Boulder (University of Colorado), and Travis (University of Texas at Austin).
People changing their profile pictures weren’t just in college towns. San Francisco County, San Mateo County (home of many tech companies), and Washington, D.C. also ranked highly. Surprisingly, while (log) population density was correlated with increases in profile updating (rho = 0.45), many counties housing large cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City, showed only modest increases (2.4-2.9%) in support.
“For a long time, when people stood up for a cause and weren’t all physically standing shoulder to shoulder, the size of their impact wasn’t immediately apparent,” Facebook data researcher Eytan Bakshy wrote. “But today, we can see the spread of an idea online in greater detail than ever before. That’s data well worth finding.”