By Christian Wilke
I once viewed politics as a monotony of formalities that I assumed no one actually cared about. It was just some song and dance the country went through regularly and people just got angrier about it every four years. As a kid, being naive is the name of the game and I wasn’t going to bother investing my time in something that wouldn’t have any apparent effect on me. That stuff is for old people anyway. So why, as I traversed the social media landscape in my teenage years, did I only see more and more political activism from my friends and peers? Social media is supposed to be fun, not a space to read about the government. Was I falling out of touch?
I guess it was because social media was (and even more so now) ingrained in our culture, that my interest in politics was ever sparked in the first place. No matter where I lurked on the internet, somebody wanted to talk about civics or policy. It wasn’t just the old people either. It was anyone that cared any bit about this country. Social media made national communication so effortless, accessible, and engaging that people’s political beliefs couldn’t not spill into the sea of people hungry for virtual interaction. As the internet evolved from old fashioned forums and myspace to the conglomerates like Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit that we know today, people sought after hubs where they could engage with like-minded people just like we do in the physical world.
Today, the culmination of the county’s growing partisanship and the pervasiveness of social media has lit the path for anyone to speak their beliefs and figuratively “march through the streets” from behind a computer screen. Through an analysis of social media through the 2020 U.S. election, it is undeniable that the ubiquity of people engaged on these platforms has caused not only a surge of political activism from people of all walks of life, but it has also given people a chance to better understand the world they live in. The resources available to us now are nearly endless from news source articles to direct communications from government officials to the opinions of your crazy neighbor. It’s thanks the abundance of information that permeates social media (among the dumb memes and instagram brunch pictures) that people no longer rely on one single news network. People begin to acknowledge perspectives they wouldn’t have otherwise considered. Social media tells us what the country is thinking at whole and individual levels and there’s a whole lot of room for debate.