Bernie brings back Facebook profile picture overlays. Do they work?

  • Returning to the early days of Facebook, Bernie Sanders can now have his campaign stick on anyone’s profile picture on Super Tuesday.
  • The profile picture model has had its ups and downs, from “Obama-ize yourself” to “Kony 2012.”
  • As superficial as they may seem, a 2015 study found that this perceived “slacktivism” can actually make a difference.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Bernie Sanders supporters were out in force early on Super Tuesday — at least on Facebook.

Those who resent the Bern had the option of making a temporary profile picture indicating that they voted for Sanders today, with a simple perimeter surrounding the photo of their choice.

The tactic dates back to the early days of Facebook.

The third-party “Obama-ize yourself” feature that painted a user’s face like Shepard Fairey’s “Hope” poster was a big hit in 2008, while the controversial 2012 Kony movement saturated Facebook with photo models stimulated by the organization Invisible Children, which was later disbanded. after drawing attention to the Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa.

While other campaigns have used similar tactics — a model of Elizabeth Warren also featured prominently in the temporary profile picture tab on Tuesday — Sanders’ approach is part of a broader grassroots effort to attempt to influence family and friends.

With the appearance of Bernie models, a 2015 study showed that there can in fact be a positive effect of similar social media campaigns, if only at the margins.

Researchers Harry Chapman and Hilde Coffé tracked data from Facebook users under 35 for a study published in the Jyournal of Youth Studies titled “Slacktivism: Not Simply a Means to a End, but a Legitimate Form of Civic Participation” .

“We find that in addition to intensity of Facebook use, offline engagement in protests and boycotts has a significant and positive effect on the likelihood of changing one’s profile picture as part of a campaign” , wrote the authors. “Thus, the opportunity for Facebook users to engage in politics by changing a profile picture to support a campaign appears to be taken more often by young people who are politically engaged offline than by those who are not. .”

Basically, the Facebook friends that come with these photos are more likely to go out and vote, participate in protests and other civic action in real life, and likely have some belief that they can convince you to vote for their candidate.

At the heart of the Sanders campaign and his supposed “political revolution”, supporters are relied upon to pressure their friends and family to support the US senator from Vermont.

Sanders, 78, is looking to walk out of Super Tuesday with a delegate who leads him to the nomination.

For more coverage and to follow the results ahead, head to the Insider Politics team homepage.