My Young Vote: Nikeria Tannis

Nikeria reflects on the power of the young vote

My Young Vote: Nikeria Tannis

I can still remember the giant influx of emails and mail as my first term at university started. Each one demanded my attention to sign up, register or update my details before the close approaching deadlines. Amongst this, the electoral register notice appeared. Conscious that failing to complete it would result in a fine, like every other, it was not regarded with great significance. I simply had to get it done and move onto the next…

Prior to university, I did not have a large interest in nationally relevant political matters. As for many, this was likely due to being oblivious to societal matters that would affect my progression into independence. Then, after experiencing the pressures of rising costs and witnessing the strain of peers renting accommodation in the city, I finally understood the need for governmental intervention and how young people can input. Indeed, it would be difficult to engage in mainstream politics if you do not share any relativity to it. The things I had dreamed about from a young age such as moving out and owning the place I could call home, began to dim as fanatical luxuries in the face of reality. Despite this, the change in economic climate has allowed me to truly take in all the things I am thankful for and would be eager for generations after me to receive. One of these things is student finance, which allowed me to embark on this higher education journey. 

Increasingly, I have understood that voting is of great importance. Whilst we often rely on social media activism, voting grants us access to the governmental decisions that carve the trajectory of our futures. 

Young people participate in political and cultural matters through social media 

A large majority of young people do not use their vote. Despite this, the young generation has never been short of sharing integral concerns and views on not just national, but global matters, by grasping hold of the power of social media.

With social media, there is no limit to public awareness. Young people on social media are exposed to 24/7 victim accounts, graphic illustrations and firsthand updates on global issues. Unlike politicians, responses are not made out of compulsion but out of heartfelt concern. It is never a case of picking which one is more important and discarding the next on a back burner, but each issue is responded to with just as much zeal. 

The means of participation are extensive. E-petitions for parliamentary action can be completed in a matter of minutes. Pressure can be placed on companies collectively viewed as morally wrong. Fundraising can quickly be raised for victims of crime. Most recently, we see campaigners collectively changing their profile photos, installing a hashtag, spamming comment sections or sharing identical videos or posts to their story in order to show unity. This widespread sense of agreement over social media can feel fulfilling. Perhaps this is due to greater confidence in the media’s ability to address issues over political promises. 

Social media allows for the immediate consumption of updates on global issues. In return, young people who are constantly exposed to this due to use of these platforms, immediately respond out of genuine anger and anxiety. Movements on social media can quickly build momentum with audiences being so closely connected, although across the world. These seemingly small movements can push organisations under fire to start having conversations about these issues and make amendments. For example, #StopFundingHate, a UK based movement pushed for large companies such as Lego and the Body Shop to cut their promotional relationship with the Daily Mail over their stance on human rights. 

For many campaigns on a national scale, the aim is that they will push government engagement and response. However, over-reliance on social media unity may be futile. Networking is vital in campaigns, but without tangible activity to push policy change, these acts of social media campaigning may simply fall as a temporary trend. Perhaps, as well as using social media as a tool, we actually go out and “do”.

So why do so many young people just not vote? 

Firstly, in relation to the above on participation, solely supporting a cause through social media is the most obvious reason for young people not voting. This method of activism is often demonstrated by expressing solidarity against social issues, protesting in comment sections and boycotting brands, as well as persuading others to. Social media activism can be most comfortable for the majority of young people. It is quick, easy and does not require great commitment or action outside of the app or site. 

Liking and sharing posts serve as great unified engagement but by itself, sadly, may not push change. Again, young people often feel greater confidence in relying on themselves in a collective movement, above waiting on the timely political process. Why is this? In many cases, lobbyists (who are campaigners that persuade politicians) must successfully advocate their cause, in order to induce policy change. This process has often been regarded as hierarchical. However, campaigning on social media allows for an immediate response and control over advocacy. 

Another reason may be a difficulty in understanding – or even being aware in the first place – of the electoral process. This may include the seemingly smallest things, such as ID requirements, the various ways to vote, dates of voting and their locations. Ultimately, this is due to a lack of education in comprehending (or better put, deciphering) party manifestos, the Cabinet and ministerial departments. Even more critically, some can find that just understanding specific terminology can be burdensome. 

Particularly for university students, when you’re already exposing yourself to the uncomfortable newness of university, ‘adulting’ and progressing into independence, voting presents itself as an additional burden which can merely be postponed to another date. But of course, our delay in voting does not delay the policy changes that may be unfavourable to us in that period.

Indeed, we can choose not ‘to do’ but mature generations will continue to maximise votes by going out and ‘doing’ what we do not.

The relevancy of campaigns will dictate where our vote goes or if it is used

In order for young people to vote we must be directly addressed by campaigning parties and assured that they prioritise our interests and concerns. Through this, they build confidence in us and them. Some of these concerns are the national living wage, job opportunities, tuition fees, homeownership prospects and rent increases.

Personally speaking, you do not need to be extremely versed in the purpose of each ministerial department to vote. You just need to know what you want, and which party will most effectively carry this out. This can be achieved with a general understanding of the political process. Each campaigning party sets out a manifesto which lists the decisions they promise to make if in power. Evaluating your personal priorities and issues you believe the country should tackle in the short or long term, can direct your reading. 

Additionally, it may be beneficial to consider the approach and purpose of your local government, or even just a school council. What issues in your community have been addressed or resolved? Which ones are most important to you?

The young vote is incredibly important as it invites us to carve out the trajectory of our future. My best advice is to seek information through YouTube videos (amongst other popular media sites). YouTubers such as Jack Edwards unbiasedly address how to register to vote, how elections work and what to expect. The BBC website also has a resource that allows you to compare (latest) party policies with a non-bias manifesto guide.

Perhaps it is time for an advancement in the electoral process, by introducing modern methods of voting. However, until then, we have a duty to ourselves and to our peers to try our best to familiarise ourselves and input on decisions crucial to our shared future. 

Author

Nikeria Tannis

Nikeria Tannis

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