Young people are so bad at voting – I’m disappointed in my peers

Hannah Jane Parkinson writes: I’ve had millennial peers tell me that they didn’t vote because they didn’t know the referendum was happening. This despite the big money spent on a youth voting drive. Pre-roll YouTube adverts; ads designed to look like club signs. It was an extraordinary novelty: David Cameron courting the youth vote. Celebrities such as Lily Allen, Keira Knightley, Idris Elba and Emma Watson encouraged individuals to vote. Unless you were in a six-month K-Hole, I have no idea how you could have missed all this.

I have also had peers tell me they did not vote because they were confused and didn’t understand. To which I say: barely any of us understood, regardless of age. There is no doubt that the lies promulgated on both sides showed scorn for the British people, made a mockery of our supposed new era of “good, honest politics”. But, when you don’t know about something, to paraphrase Larry David, well then you learn. You learn. £350m per week to the EU? Let Me Google That For You.

But there’s an even more curious and infuriating type of non-voter. Young people who are engaged in the political process, but don’t end up voting. Social media has much to answer for. I have argued before that tech can be helpful when encouraging engagement – Facebook’s voter status initiative, for instance – and I see that changing your profile picture to a French flag, or a Rainbow flag helps you to feel better and does contribute to a nicer, supportive tone of discourse – it has its place – but when it comes to affecting policy change, it’s as good as hovering a pencil over the box and crossing the air.

It’s the same school of thought that has Jeremy Corbyn eschewing mainstream media because he has, um, 525,000 Twitter followers. Newsflash: avatars of eggs don’t win elections. People quite rightly talk of the Westminster bubble. The media bubble. But there is a Twitter bubble and a Facebook feedback loop. Social media was supposed to widen our world, but its algorithms can shrink it entirely. I am concerned that young people – but not just young people – think that changing their name to a referendum-related pun or re-gramming Jean Jullien equals a vote. [Continue reading…]

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