A “developer wanted” posting on Drupal.org pointed me towards a new start-up that plans to use the power of social networking to advance LGBT rights. Here’s the more descriptive pitch on the FriendFactor website:
Once we launch, people who are LGBT can set up profiles and invite their friends, gay and straight, to support them. Once we’re all connected, we have the potential to build a vital movement. When the time is right, friends can take small actions to help change laws that effect their gay friends’ lives. By joining together, we will make equal rights a reality. Let’s help our LGBT friends obtain their basic, legal freedoms to work, parent, marry, and serve our country. Let friendship ring.
Between this week’s wear purple day, and the more ambitious (and awesome) example of It Gets Better, we’re clearly seeing a renewal of efforts to tap social media as a resource for supporting the gay community. Those efforts have particular resonance in the face of recent stories that show how social media can sometimes make life harder for gay teens, like the suicide of the Rutgers student whose private life was posted online by a roommate.
We all face the challenge of how to make social media an asset rather than an obstacle in building happier lives and a better world. When I talk with people about my deep-seated belief that, for all its challenges, social media represents a huge step forward for us as a society, I often use the example of all the teens in places where it’s incredibly hard and isolating to be gay, who now have access to a community and to some reassurance that (as Dan Savage puts it) it gets better.
But efforts like FriendFactor remind me that it’s not enough to just point to all those individuals who are just a little bit less isolated or a little bit happier, thanks to social media. We have to consciously and consistently work at harnessing this new medium to the job of building the kind of world we want to live in. I hope FriendFactor succeeds at making a new and valuable contribution to that goal.