Ria Browne is currently a real estate agent based in Brooklyn, NY. She may also have a future as a social media guru.
On February 16 of this year, two days after the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, she sent out a simple message to her 600 Instagram followers. It was an infographic courtesy the Center for Responsive Politics showing the rapid increase in spending on federal elections by NRA. Alongside it was a simple message: “I am campaigning for more Instagram followers for @everytown so that we outnumber those following the NRA.” Less than a week later, she had accomplished her goal.
At the time of her posting, @everytown, the Instagram handle for the gun safety advocacy group “Everytown for Gun Safety,” had 136K followers. This was no small beans, but nothing compared to the NRA (@nationalrifleassociation), which registered 545K of their own. For Ms. Browne, this was unacceptable. If they wanted to bring about change, reformers would need to “show…politicians our power in numbers!”
As the movement grew, she kept her followers updated on its progress. Utilizing hand-drawn sketches on legal pad to emphasize her grassroots standpoint, she compared @everytown’s following both to the NRA’s following and to where it was when they first began, continuously emphasizing their goal of progress and eventual eclipse. “Only 122K more to go,” one reads, and “100K gained today..WOOHOO!” says another.
She also managed to reach the golden goose of Instagram: celebrities. With reposts from Olivia Wilde, Laura Dern, and Daveed Diggs, among others, her recognizability swelled, along with her message. Employing the positivity-affirming hashtags #safetyinnumbers and #commonsensegunreform, Ms. Browne accomplished her mission in no time. “This,” she wrote on the day that @everyday tied the NRA at 549K followers, “is an uprising.”
Exactly a month after her original posting, @everytown has run away with the lead. Currently sitting at 758K compared to the NRA’s 584K, they’re sitting on quite a comfortable cushion.
Of course, as many cynics have pointed out, there’s no reliable mechanism to turn social media follows into political action. Further, NRA supporters are likely to skew less social media obsessed than their reform-minded counterparts. Nonetheless, as Ms. Browne affirms, strength comes in numbers, and sometimes it’s nice to see those numbers right in front of your eyes as you fight for change on their behalf.
Feature Image Courtesy Ms. Browne’s Twitter