The Election Through the Eyes of Social Media

The youth of the United States came out in droves this year to vote in the Presidential Election and many of them voted to reelect President Barack Obama. After being plagued by stereotypes of the “apathetic” millennials, the 18-29 year-olds came to the polls and made their votes known. As encouraging as it is to see young people take an interest in politics, hopefully forming habits to do our duty as Americans in the elections to come, one has to wonder whether uninformed voting is, in fact, a larger problem than not voting at all.

Refusing to vote in an election because you don’t “like” either candidate or do not support the “capitalist regime” is a slap in the face to the years of wars that have been fought and the lives that have been lost to grant Americans that very right. I voted in my first presidential election this year and, even though I was not thrilled with either candidate, I cast my vote. There were more things at stake in this election than the Presidential candidates, and I believe that many people failed to realize that when they exercised their “personal freedom” by refusing to vote.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing, however, has been reading the chatter over social media –especially my guilty pleasure, Twitter– over the past few weeks and especially the most recent days. Everyone has a right to express their political beliefs and opinions, but the sheer idiocy of the people that are most prevalent on Twitter is disturbing and sickening. Threats of assassinations, arguments of racism, and other wild accusations that flew back and forth between people that have never met were vitriolic and frightening. Just as disturbing is the apparent lack of education or information possessed by the people starting these ridiculous online battles. Peppered with spelling and grammatical mistakes, as well as outright false statements, one has to wonder: how much of Generation Y is voting with this mindset? How many of us vote because of the things we read online, or hear in passing from our parents? How many of us vote because our favorite celebrity or musical artist supported a candidate?

Mean Girls, always a highly quoted film on Twitter was, once again, represented ad nauseum on the Twitter feed on Election Day, with this particular quote:

“I’m voting for Regina George, because she got hit by a bus.”

“I’m voting for Cady Heron, because she pushed her.”

While this quote is referring to a Spring Fling Queen election and NOT the Presidential election, I think this is the attitude a large amount of young voters possess. Ask us about economic policy, foreign policy, or immigration–many people would not know. This is not at all to say that all young voters are uneducated or that all older voters are well educated on politics. I can say with assurance that there are many things in the political sphere that are beyond me, probably because, like many of my generation, I have not paid as close attention to politics as I should have. However, I think social media has earned an important place in politics, especially this year.

Many of the discussions taking place over Twitter were educated and civil and generated interesting questions, questions that needed to be asked. People on Twitter were proud to vote–some so much so that they posted photos of their ballots (oops, that’s illegal). But, in the aftermath of the election results, Twitter quickly degenerated into a place for people to spew bigotry and sheer stupidity. This was not limited to one party or one belief by any means, therefore showing that at least the political parties can share something.

In the end, I think an important fact was proved: the votes of young people do count, and do make an impact on the future, and I think more young people are beginning to realize that. But, what is terrifying is wondering where we are getting our information for whom to vote, how are we making our decisions? Yes, I vote the way my parents and grandparents vote. Is that because I have no mind of my own and have bought into the “family tradition”? No. Does my upbringing have some impact on my vote? Yes. However, I am a 21 year old college student. I have a mind of my own and I have found that the beliefs and opinions I learned from my parents have come to apply personally to me as I have gotten older. Those arethe terms young voters need to reach–the ability to make a well-educated decision based on THEIR beliefs and THEIR opinions, not those of some celebrity or someone spewing nonsense on Twitter. I think we are part of the way there: the young people are going out and voting and getting excited, but perhaps being a truly educated voter is something that (hopefully) comes with age.

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