Facebook LGBTQ Pictivism: The Effects of Women’s Rainbow Profile Filters on Sexual Prejudice and Online Belonging

Jes L. Matsick, Lizbeth M. Kim, Mary Kruk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Facebook’s rainbow profile filter represents a popular display of activism (“pictivism”) commonly used by women, yet little is known of pictivism’s potential for creating social change. We tested whether women’s group status (belonging to a dominant vs. marginalized group) and filter use influenced viewers’ perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors. We conducted a series of 2 (target sexual orientation: queer or heterosexual) × 2 (filter use: filter or no filter) experiments with heterosexual (N1 = 198, N2 = 186) and LGBTQ (N3 = 290) participants. Participants rated women who used rainbow filters as more activist than women who did not engage in pictivism. Although neither target sexual orientation nor filter use influenced participants’ ally behavior (donations), heterosexual people who viewed a woman using a filter reported greater closeness to LGBTQ people and greater intentions of supporting LGBTQ people when the woman was queer than heterosexual. Exposure to rainbow filters caused LGBTQ participants to express greater online and societal belonging than when filters were absent. Taken together, women’s pictivism and the online visibility of queer women yielded some psychological benefits for heterosexual and LGBTQ viewers. If the goal of pictivism is to enhance marginalized groups’ feelings of support, it works as intended. We thus recommend that both heterosexual and LGBTQ people who care about LGBTQ rights and seek to affirm LGBTQ individuals’ sense of belonging embrace opportunities on social media, specifically through profile picture filters, to communicate their support. Additional online materials for this article are available on PWQ’s website at http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/suppl/10.1177/0361684320930566.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)342-361
Number of pages20
JournalPsychology of Women Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology


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