The Vision

Stokley: Internet is Revolutionizing Youth Political Involvement

Hayden Stokley, Student Life Editor

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Stereotypically, American high school students are infamous for sitting back, grabbing our iPhones and watching the world’s occurrences happen through live tweets. Our source of information and news in unison with the rest of the geopolitical world is connected by a vast and interwoven subsection of technology, assisted by Netflix shows, Instagram accounts and celebrity speeches.

At first glance, the life and interests of a high school student are egotistical and closed-off at best, whether we’re staring at our phones for hours or only talking about pop culture when we hang out with friends. However, the connections teenagers are making in high school are orienting us for a monumental shift in the way global politics are conducted–for the better.

An overwhelming amount of research shows that youth political involvement has surged in the past five years, increasing in unison with the jump in social media use. Similarly, and unsurprisingly so, studies show that social media influences young adults’ political stances.

Some argue that this dependence on social media as a news source biases younger generations to make inferences and draw conclusions without understanding a topic fully or researching the information independent from a biased source. This is true in many instances, but it’s not the full story, nor is this connection to social media in response to politics causing drastic harm.

In fact, when more news stories and political messages go viral, it drives high school students to search for information, research current events and stay up-to-date on the news.

Because of this, more high school students than ever are staying informed on what’s happening around them. This is the most vital component to a successful world of leaders for the next generation. It is a catalyst for creating movement, change and autonomous free speech.

However, high school students don’t have to wait until they are adults to be active in politics; in fact, most teenagers are aware of this, and they aren’t standing by to let the legislation that affects them pass in silence. More teenagers than ever are posting about their political beliefs and advocating for legislation. Teenagers are even attending and facilitating protests, political events and marches.

Social media has evolved to become a platform for young individuals to communicate their stance and bond with others who they may never meet otherwise without the assistance of the internet.

It’s also allowing these groups of people to converge in unity, allowing for even more change to take place. Take, for example, the controversy behind Net Neutrality, which became a viral sensation on social media websites such as Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr after an outpouring of youth conversation.

The premise of Net Neutrality advocates for governmental policies to ensure data usage on the internet is treated uniformly. This ensures that using certain websites or platforms cannot be charged differently than any other website.

Congressional Democrats have been voting against a Republican ruling hoping to repeal neutrality legislation. When news of this reached social media, an outpouring of comments, shares and reposts flooded the internet.

Even more recently, the Parkland school shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that occurred on Feb. 14 became a viral sensation. News of the tragic event exploded on the Internet, amidst news coverage from major channels as well, when the students affected by the events released statements on social media.

A surge of support and waves of commentary immediately flooded websites frequented by teenagers, releasing photos on Instagram, tweets on Twitter and posts on Facebook. Even celebrities such as George and Amal Clooney and Oprah Winfrey utilized social media as an outlet to reach the vast amount of teenagers following the news, posting messages to announce their support and condolences.

For fellow teenagers across the world, the Parkland school shooting resonated as a harrowing and heartbreaking event because of social media. The students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School live-tweeted during the horrific shooting, and others posted their group chats and text messages to their parents.

Their frantic fear and the panic that ensued was no longer confined to a source that was not relatable; it was authentic and real. These text messages are more personable and heartbreaking than the cold updates offered on newspaper headlines. They resonate. They force teenagers to feel, to empathize and act.

These events—school shootings that took needless lives of teenagers or legislation that affects the lives of young people everywhere—are no longer illustrated simply through the headlines of newspapers and news channels.

Instead, politics have leapt to life and taken on a closer, more relatable tone, reaching and touching the hearts of social media users in an impactful way.”

— Hayden Stokley

This impact is evident through the reaction high school students exhibited across the nation in response to the Parkland school shooting. Thousands of students from various high schools have staged walkouts in protest as a response to the shooting, calling for legislation to address gun issues and to garner awareness.

In these instances, high schools are becoming the grounds of change, protest and action; the internet is becoming a connective force tethering teenagers everywhere together.

Arguably, this generation of teenagers are the first age of individuals whose connection to the global network across the world has impacted their lives since birth. Current high school seniors and juniors have grown up playing computer games and using tablets and phones to interact with friends, in the classroom and in their free time.

They have felt the power that a worldwide method of communication instills; it is just as natural to teenagers to communicate using technology as it is to communicate by speaking. These means of communication reflect the population’s worldviews and opinions, and it remains an effective and efficient channel of contacting and networking.

This generation is also the first to call for change in a unique and comedic way: memes. As the second-generation form of a political cartoon, memes found populating every corner of the world wide web have acted as an artistic and humorous form of satire for any cause and viewpoint.

They stand to protest issues and shed light on social problems often seem as normative—such as memes posted on Instagram pages championing equality. Similarly, during the most recent American presidential race, candidates were cartoonized or placed into “meme” format which satirized the statements that candidates made.

This generation has taken a medium of communication they have grown up and changed alongside it. We have revolutionized it to become an effective and powerful way to mobilize and induce change, and that is, without a doubt, an incredible thing.

Without the Internet, perhaps youth across the nation would remain impassive when events such as the Parkland school shooting occur. Perhaps we would be still, immobile, and silent. That means we would stay that way as we became the majority of individuals in the workforce, voting and paying taxes. That is a terrifying thought.

Instead, we are marching. Protesting. Posting. Communicating. Thinking for ourselves. That gives me faith in our next generation, and thanks to the internet, teenagers aren’t going to stop this momentum anytime soon.

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Comment

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




Navigate Right
Navigate Left
  • Stokley: Internet is Revolutionizing Youth Political Involvement

    Opinion

    Gong: The High School Love Dilemma

  • Stokley: Internet is Revolutionizing Youth Political Involvement

    Opinion

    Hummus and Airport Security: The Life of an Arab on the Terrorist Watch-List

  • Stokley: Internet is Revolutionizing Youth Political Involvement

    Opinion

    Caine: Three of the Best Songs on J. Cole’s New Album

  • Stokley: Internet is Revolutionizing Youth Political Involvement

    Opinion

    Lewis: Mississippi – The Worst State?

  • Stokley: Internet is Revolutionizing Youth Political Involvement

    Opinion

    Lewis: My Problems with Gun Control

  • Stokley: Internet is Revolutionizing Youth Political Involvement

    Opinion

    Stokley: Arts Education Vital for American Classrooms

  • Stokley: Internet is Revolutionizing Youth Political Involvement

    Opinion

    Clark: “Me Too?” or Just Him?

  • Stokley: Internet is Revolutionizing Youth Political Involvement

    Opinion

    Schaumburg: Showing Pride

  • Stokley: Internet is Revolutionizing Youth Political Involvement

    Opinion

    Lewis: Draconian Labor Laws in Mississippi

  • Stokley: Internet is Revolutionizing Youth Political Involvement

    Opinion

    Gordon: The Internet and the Seven Deadly Sins

The Eyes of MSMS
Stokley: Internet is Revolutionizing Youth Political Involvement