Unless you live under a rock that gave up Facebook for Lent, you probably saw a non-stop stream of Facebook profile photo updates Tuesday where people changed their primary photo to the "equals sign on a red background" thingy seen above. It's not just you. That graphic has been viewed by ten million people in less than 24 hours, and has turned into so many people's profile photo that it feels like an even bigger phenomenon than Facebook Doppelganger Week.
You're probably aware that the image is a reference to the U.S. Supreme Court's oral arguments on the Hollingsworth vs. Perry case that seeks to overturn California's same-sex marriage ban, because people posting it usually write some sort of missive about gay marriage. But the spread of the image was truly viral. Most "viral" campaigns these days are actually carefully planned. This one wasn't, and the graphic's creators had no idea the chain they would set off.
The red "Equality" graphic was produced by the Human Rights Campaign, and it's a riff on their normal blue and yellow equals sign logo. HRC actually posted the graphic Monday afternoon, with the message "Show your support for marriage equality -- make your profile image red for tomorrow."
At first, hardly anyone bit. But the image took off on Tuesday morning when Facebook icon and former "Star Trek" co-star George S. Takei posted it as his Facebook profile photo. Pop star Ricky Martin did the same, as did a number of Democratic governors, senators, and elected officials.
Not long after, the HRC's web site crashed for an hour because so many Facebook users were visiting the page just to download the graphic. "It has caught us off guard, to be honest with you," HRC vice president of communications Fred Saiz told CNN. "It has taken off like wild fire."
It appears that George Takei's posting of the image was the primary catalyst for the viral spread. Traditional marriage advocates -- you might want to enlist a "Star Trek" cast member to advocate your cause. I understand Shatner works pretty cheap!
Oh, and there have been some hilarious pariodies of the red "Equality" logo. A Grumpy Cat version of the "Equality" image has nearly as many shares as the original. A bacon version of the logo is also immensely popular, for reasons I cannot even begin to imagine. My own favorite is the Mr. Burns and Smithers version produced by a Minneapolis-St. Paul graphic artist.
If you need to keep up on all the latest "Red Equals Sign" parodies, they're being posted like mad to Notable Derivatives section of the KnowYourMeme.com entry for the Red Equal Sign.