As the coronavirus continues to slowly ease its grip on the nation, a celebration of spirit, individuality, and pride is most definitely in order—particularly after a June in 2020 that was ravaged by turmoil, fear, and stark reminders of inequality. While these feelings have not been absent in 2021, a resurgence of energy and optimism has provided the opportunity for refreshed perspectives in our social feeds and opened the doors to more joyous content.
In recognition of Pride Month, our robust LGBTQ+ community, and the history of our institution as both an advocate and ally, U-M Social dedicated the month of June to elevating voices, challenging perceptions and educating audiences on the importance of inclusion, acceptance, and offering support.
The month-long celebration of pride on our main U-M social media accounts is a project that was born years ago, initially as a subtle but steady 30-day Instagram grid project that brought the feed far beyond the traditional maize and blue to incorporate all of the colors of the rainbow. Over time, it became clear that stronger representation and more education on the many faces and facets of the LGBTQ+ community was needed.
With the collaboration of campus units dedicated to providing services and bringing together LGBTQ+ student, faculty, staff, and alumni, and with the participation of more than 30 people, each day on Instagram during June 2021 a new face or service was shared and celebrated. By month end, nearly 5 million people were touched by our content, with over 100,000 engagements and likes. Stories were told of struggle, sacrifice, and sadness. Others offered hope, reassurance, and knowledge. All demonstrated pride.
The additional emphasis on vertical video that we incorporated this year within our social media strategy also presented new ways to bring this important content to even more people. With videos discussing and presenting tips on acknowledging proper pronouns, explaining the colors of the progress flag, and demonstrating the process behind our latest Pride Month Giphy stickers, these engaging assets alone were viewed by nearly 150,000 people.
Across other platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, our Pride Month content included resources for our on campus community, interviews with our U-M students, upcoming events, and professional and support groups.
One of the month’s highlights—and most prominently discussed posts—came on the first day of Pride Month. Featuring U-M student Caleb Quezon, the image and the subsequent barrage of hateful, bigoted, and distasteful comments it garnered were intertwined with the support of peers, community members, and allies. With upwards of 500 comments, Quezon’s picture was a stark reminder that while U-M is ready to live freely in the 21st century with all the positive ideals it entails, the bitter reality of society and social media is that hate, bias, and blatant harassment still linger near.
The terrifying reality is that we are still struggling as a society to be accepting of each other. And that makes the bravery and courage shared by the individuals willing to open themselves up to the public eye and online scrutiny all the more important. Their abundance of self assurance is what allows others to learn and grow, and U-M Social is proud to provide the platform to help them be seen and heard.