Yes, the first words I heard from the president of the United States on the most monumental day for gay rights in our nation's history came to me via Twitter, complete with a LoveIsLove hashtag.
I was surprised and delighted -- and so living in the past.
I mean, surprised? Twitter and a hashtagging commander in chief are part of daily life in 2013. Along with Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Tout and the rest, it's how we entertain and inform ourselves. It's how we keep in touch with old friends and make new ones. It's how we find out about new jobs, old flames, the deaths of loved ones and the births of new family members.
And it's how we find ourselves moved -- moved to take action or rethink; moved to fear or hope; moved to join or resist; or encourage or protest. I'm convinced social media is the latest accelerant to social change, including the way we look at our neighbors or co-workers or relatives or our children's friends and lovers.
And I'm convinced that, as is the case with almost everything the Internet touches, those changes are coming faster than they did in the years before social media. It was inevitable that both public opinion and the courts would eventually turn against discrimination based on sexual orientation. But I have little doubt that social media helped more rapidly push the social change that provided the backdrop of support for Wednesday's twin decisions in favor of same-sex marriage.
Elizabeth Drescher, a Santa Clara University lecturer who studies social media, says the speed with which social media allows ideas to spread is part of the equation. Whether it is right to define same-sex marriages as something less than straight marriages, or whether it is OK to be gay, are the sorts of conversations that family and friends might have had around the kitchen table. Now, thousands at a time are gathered -- virtually -- talking about the same subjects.
"The pace of media engagement is just really different," Drescher says of social media. "It's not just that it's a force that can inflame an idea, in the sense of giving it social energy. It's also that the time frame for social media is so rapid, the idea that it works as an accelerant is exactly right. It goes really fast."
That is one reason we can live in an America where the 60-40 split against gay relationships in 2001 has flipped to 60-40 in favor today.
And, of course, the flood of social media messaging continues to grow. On Wednesday, Twitter traffic related to the Supreme Court rulings peaked around 9,000 tweets a minute, a few hours after President Barack Obama tweeted, "Today's DOMA ruling is a historic step forward for #MarriageEquality. #LoveIsLove."
It would be silly to argue that social media is the sole mover behind America's shift to greater acceptance of same-sex marriage. And there is no sure way to measure the spread of a core principle or a movement. We are a complicated people with even more complicated politics. But many have posited that the country's acceptance of same-sex marriage is growing as more and more people realize they know gay people -- often very well. It's one thing, after all, to discriminate against "them" and a whole different thing to discriminate against my brother or sister or mechanic or Safeway checker or Facebook friend.
Estelle Weyl is a Web developer who married her girlfriend in 2008, when same-sex marriage was last legal in California. She says tweets and social media posts are not likely to sway those who have taken a hardened political position on the issue. But not everyone has taken a hardened political position.
"What I think social media does," says Weyl, 44, who lives on the Peninsula, "if you're on the fence or have no position on it, you can't help being exposed to it much more."
And that simple exposure, multiplied many times over, can change minds and move societies. MIT professor Sherry Turkle, who's long studied the role of technology in our lives, credits social media portrayals of gay family life with helping shift public opinion to support same-sex marriage.
"People don't just see gay couples. They see gay families," Turkle says. "I think social media have done just an immense service -- and the blogosphere and YouTube, Facebook, have shown that the face of the gay family has become part of the face of America."
And from today forward it will be ever more so. Feel free to tweet that to your followers, #LoveIsLove.
Contact Mike Cassidy at email@example.com or 408-920-5536. Follow him at Twitter.com/mikecassidy.