With the rise of social media, politicians have frequently taken advantage of sites that are used around the world, such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other platforms. These platforms are heavily influential, and a large majority of young users use them as a primary source of information about current events and politics. However, we must ask ourselves, how do these platforms change the scope of politics, when politicians are capable of cultivating a persona separate from their political agendas?
In the midst of the 2016 presidential election, Jeb Bush admitted to smoking weed 40 years ago during a 2016 Republican debate, and proceeded to tweet “Sorry mom” afterward. The reaction on Twitter was generally positive, with a plethora of memes reacting to the presidential candidate being humorous and relatable. However, Bush’s confession was revealed in response to a question regarding marijuana legalization. The debate seemed to be eclipsed by the fact that one candidate admitted to smoking weed 40 years ago. Politicians have always attempted to construct likable and relatable facades in an effort to attract more voters, and Bush isn’t the only one. 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris admitted to smoking weed in the past despite her previous opposition to legalizing marijuana.
We must ask how these actions that politicians frequently take impact young voters, especially at a time of political uncertainty and frustration. While a candidate’s attempt to be in touch with younger generations often does well on social media, does it tend to blind people from the facts, including people’s political agendas? Is it fair for politicians to construct personal images in the face of being an electable official? I don’t believe that it is, as it can skew people’s opinions in an intensely negative way. Unfortunately, there are few actions that can be taken to mitigate politicians’, and their publicity teams’, attempts to make them likable individuals, as proven by President Donald Trump’s continuous “Game of Thrones” memes that he so often, and unfortunately, tweets. However, we are in a position where we can be hypervigilant about not letting people’s tweets of 280 characters and their sharing of irrelevant personal experiences in their teenage years affect our opinions of their politics.
Traditionally, younger people are the least represented demographic in voter turnout. But the voter turnout for the 2018 midterms proved that the previously low involvement of teenagers and young adults in politics and voting is now a thing of the past, with the greatest increase of voters being between the ages of 18 and 29. As more and more young people find themselves involved in politics, regardless of their political views, we must consider how social media impacts their decisions, and how we can ensure that information being offered on these platforms are not clouding their decisions when it comes time to vote.
Theodora Catrina is a sophomore majoring in mathematics.