Voting Via Cell Phone: How To Get Millennials More Involved In Political Elections
We all remember that special time when Facebook was something pristine. Okay, maybe it was never pristine, but it was cool, hot, the place to be. And, sometimes, it was the only thing to do. It’s been around 10 years since that mythical era, and since then, something has happened to the News Feed.
It’s right there… in between the marriages, baby pictures, brands you liked while drunk at 3 am one time and those annoying automatic videos. Do you see it? What a stupid question. How could you miss it, the toxic deluge of political barbarism?
The articles. The rants. The diatribes.
Our digital social network now evokes a true Roman Forum. Of course, the Romans certainly served up their opinions with more civility.
Back then, you needed to be wearing a toga before you could call your friend from high school a lying, socialist bloodsucker or listen to your bigoted uncle warn about the “homosexual agenda.”
For better or worse, social media has made a new form of political debate possible. The forum is open. It’s anonymous. It’s worldwide. And, according to ShareThis, a social research company, we Millennials are loving it.
We’re sharing and talking about politics online in far higher numbers than any other age group. The most involved among us are sharing 112 percent more than other age groups. Now, depending on where your political values and allegiances exist, these interactions are happening in different places.
As it turns out, your Republican friends have an affinity for Facebook. Democrats like Twitter and Reddit more.
I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that we siphon off into the bubbles that best reflect what we think. It should also not come as much of a shock that aside from sharing in different places, Democrats and Republicans are sharing different information.
Democrats are all about climate change, income equality and abortion. For Republicans, it’s the economy, taxes, foreign affairs and immigration. Fascinating, no doubt.
But, now for the pertinent question: What does this new-age political forum engagement mean for the health of our 238-year-old democracy? Unfortunately, not much since its guaranteed Millennial turnout in this year’s midterm election — an election with drastic consequences concerning the turnover of the Senate to the opposition party — will be its typical lackluster self.
So, what’s the deal? We’re sharing more, which suggests we’re more engaged in politics than any other #voting block. But, we know from election turnout this has to be wrong. To unravel this mystery, it helps to think about the types of content people like to share on social media.
It isn’t hard to make a quick list of adjectives that drives sharing: absurdity, shock, humor, celebrity, horror, anger, compelling, emotional, relevant and any combination of the above.
Now, did you see that? The adjectives that describe the type of content we all love to share so much are the same set of words that describe our current politics.
Stories like the national healthcare website that couldn’t handle the traffic it received, to the anger surrounding NSA spying, to the horror of the ISIS beheadings, have been freed from the confines of a newspaper. Now, we’re all opinion leaders, pundits and talking heads pontificating the news of the day across our social interwebs.
But, participating in this sh*t? Actually getting out of bed, being late to work, waiting in line with strangers in some weird-smelling school cafeteria, just to pick a bunch of names you’ve never heard and will never hear again? For an intuition that actually only works 113 days per year? Forget it.
Why should we bother? We don’t have the money to pay for cable, let alone start a 501(c)(4) Super PAC. We have part-time jobs and unpaid internships that don’t afford us time to #vote let alone consider a candidate who doesn’t understand that global warming can make it colder in the winter.
I’m sure I’ll get the typical, “You need to vote to change the system” response. The problem is the devolution of our political system into a corporate contest run by professional celebrities and awarded to the highest bidder has sent any morale for participation into an abyss of apathy.
It’s an apathy so deep that sometimes, I think it’s actually okay that we fly robots over three continents to kill self-titled “terrorists” indiscriminately. It’s okay that we have 63,000 bridges that need repairs. It’s okay that we’re ranked 36 in the world in education.
It’s okay that South Korea’s Internet is 50 times faster than ours. It’s okay that people who love each other can’t get married. It’s okay that we have the world’s highest incarceration rate. It’s okay that local police departments drive tanks.
It’s okay that fracking makes water flammable. It’s okay that corporations can donate as much as they want to an election. It’s okay that student loans are strangling a generation. It’s okay that our country’s overarching happiness levels, compared to the rest of the world, are shrinking.
This isn’t an argument about whether or not to vote or to tear down the system and have a revolution or to even sit back in our apathy while our bridges fall down (here’s one).
Rather, what I’m getting at is that in this environment, the only thing likely to get me to vote is a Democracy App that casts my vote from my #phone. Ideally, I could use it without wearing pants.
All I know I know is that sharing isn’t enough. We need to do more. Then, we can all start having a real conversation.