Sometimes I have to tell the sociologist in me to calm herself, as she goes crazy for a good marketing campaign. Recently, our company, OneGoodLove, the only online dating site for relationship-minded LGBT singles, partnered with three other LGBT companies -- Wolfe Video, Lesbian.com, and Sweet.com -- to raise money for Freedom to Marry's latest campaign, a collaborative and intergenerational effort to abolish the piecemeal and inequitable way of treating marriage. Using the collective marriage equality fight to appeal to the individual, we aimed to raise enough money to win this civil right for the entire country, battling it out state by state. While the support for this collaborative effort has been inspiring, it is actually the social theory behind the campaign that gets the sociologist in me all hot and bothered.
As a Freedom to Marry partner, I didn't think much about the social structure of the campaign going in. The model simply used a crowdsourced fundraising tactic to petition the individual to donate and support the cause. But as I reflected on the greater social context of this fundraising tactic, I realized that it is inspiring in and of itself, as it mirrors the LGBT experience and fight for equal rights, both of which have always been grassroots movements, and has the power to rekindle the social solidarity that has long been the heartbeat of the LGBT community.
To me, the LGBT experience has always been an individual one, beginning with the act of coming out. While this act may take shape as a social proclamation or event, at its core, coming out is a personal struggle and presentation. Since the majority of members within the LGBT enclave share this experience, it creates a shared or collective narrative that bonds the community. Thus, through individual struggle blooms community cohesion.
Before the era of ubiquitous phones and social media, the LGBT community relied on this community cohesion as a support system and agent for social change, as only through shared narratives and experiences could we change individual hearts and minds to turn the tide. And it was through this "crowdsourcing" of support that we, as LGBT people, were able to gain traction to pave the way for larger social gains, like the recent landmark DOMA and Prop 8 overturns.
However, much of that connective camaraderie has been lost in recent years. With the rise of social media, 4G phones, and WiFi that extends into the depths of infinity, the LGBT community no longer relies on social cohesion to sustain itself. Queer kids can now out each other via Twitter, hang out with friends over Google+, and feel the support of 100,000 faceless "friends" they will never know. While this increased contact with technology has not necessarily weakened the LGBT community per se, I feel it has isolated its once-fiercely-interconnected members.
As I thought about this, the sociologist in me pointed out that the Freedom to Marry campaign merges these two worlds. By combining a personal appeal and individual fundraising component with social media, the campaign revives this community vibe and updates it for the modern era. The crowdsourced funding via social media allows the campaign to reach a wider audience base and unites them behind one fight and one projected victory. And the individual contribution toward a collective cause reappropriates the sense of connectivity that has faded from the queer forefront. The campaign ultimate resuscitates the heartbeat of the LGBT community -- the camaraderie that has fallen dormant within large parts of our queer enclave -- and reminds us that as a community, we are still as fierce as ever.
Co-authored by Mason Hsieh, OneGoodLove.com intern extraordinaire