What I'm Voting For

Social Media & The Presidential Election

“We’re all on social media, whether we like it or not. Every young person is exposed to it in some capacity, and ye olde politicians have caught on to that. Social media has become a forum for political engagement, and it’s important to talk about awareness and literacy going into the 2024 election.”

I bet the first thing you do when you wake up is check your phone. 

You open TikTok and start scrolling. You see a cute dog video, a mother cleaning up after her kids and other light-hearted content you’ll forget in 10 seconds. 

Then, out of the blue, you’re hit with a clip of Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley talking about humanizing abortion policies. You know the one. Looking for other perspectives like the curious soul you are, you enter the comment section. Deep down, you knew exactly what to expect. 

It’s a war zone. Some commenters agree or disagree with this 30-second clip on principle because it’s coming out of Nikki Haley’s mouth. Bravely hiding behind screens and profile pictures, people throw insults that would get them knocked out in person. 

With your morning sufficiently ruined and your faith in humanity diminished, you get ready to go about your day. You’ll forget about the political headache until you’re bombarded again in an hour.

And the thing is, politicians know you’ll be back. The Pew Research Center found that 84 percent of American adults aged 18-29 were active on at least one social media platform in 2021. 

That’s why they’ve evolved from what used to be picket signs and commercials to the more digestible bite-sized content that social media requires. 

Because social media is now a campaign forum, it is the responsibility of the average social media user to inform themself. With the 2024 presidential election fast approaching, media literacy is more critical than ever.

You might remember the volatile social media atmosphere preceding and following the 2020 presidential election, as well as the frustration of interacting with anyone who had an opinion. 

You might remember the rise of “fake news” and then the rise of fact-checkers to check the “fake news,” and then those fact-checkers, upon discovering that the “fake news” wasn’t fake, being called “fake news.” 

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by news, fact-checking and doing your own research, and it’s tempting to subscribe to the simplified explanation a politician can offer. 

As you scroll past name-calling and insults between presidential candidates this upcoming election season, slow down and step back. 

Be careful not to let carefully cut clips impress or dissuade you. Look at everything posted as a campaign advertisement. Even if it seems funny or down-to-earth, it is a tactic to reach and persuade you. 

Be wary of bots and supporters as well. I guarantee you’ve run into a bot if you’ve spent any amount of time on social media. They’re typically the ones starting the most outrageous arguments, and they’re designed to make you resent them.

Most often, It is best to simply not engage. Unless there is a good faith discussion to be had, or unless you can absolutely demolish them — bonus points if it’s funny — don’t hurt yourself trying to change someone’s mind.

Only 14 percent of Americans have changed their mind about an issue based on something they’ve seen on social media, according to a survey from the Pew Research Center. 

Keep an eye out for misinformation too. This might be the most challenging aspect of media literacy. In a world of social media where you’re bombarded by information, it’s tedious to determine what’s true and what’s not.

Pay attention to where information is sourced. Determine whether a news source adheres to ethical guidelines, who they’re funded by and the breadth of their coverage.

It seems like a lot of work, more than just scrolling on TikTok, but in this age of social media as a political forum, it is your responsibility to properly inform your opinions. 

Someone informed by unfiltered information is not informed at all.

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