The days of scrolling through Facebook and Twitter just to see what people are up to are no more. Now, one’s political and ideological views are plastered everywhere for people to see and instantly comment on. This new interactive way of displaying our beliefs is something that sets our generation apart from our predecessors’. This election will see the highest usage of mass media to date– a factor that will allow a large number of previously apathetic students to become more involved and figure out their personal views. While nationwide, this may seem like a huge catalyst for the election, how big of an impact does social media have on the political opinions of Minnetonka High School students?
According to a poll conducted of 250 of Minnetonka’s upperclassmen, about 41% have had either their political or ideological opinions swayed based on something that someone posted on either Facebook or Twitter. While at first this number may seem rather insignificant when we think about how much time the majority of the student body spends on social networks, it deserves a second glance. Think about it: if 40% of the nation was undecided on a certain issue and was persuaded simply by a mere tweet or Facebook post, the whole balance of the issue would swing. One person’s analysis could influence others to change their opinion on an important issue. Whether anyone wants to believe it or not, people’s tweets really do make a difference.
Regardless of whether or not people’s beliefs change, everyone can agree that we’ve all come into contact with some sort of political remark or commentary online. We’ve all seen the extensive Facebook fights in the comment section of someone’s post. We’ve all seen the impulsive tweets jabbing at another political party. We’ve all seen our friends’ political views broadcasted all over their profile. The truth of the matter is that politics in general has become nearly unavoidable for our generation.
So far, the presidential debates have seen the largest volume of tweets. Something about the two candidates going back and forth at each other must spur an inspiration in students. A large number of tweets involve students’ own personal reactions to what the candidates are saying while many involve quoting and/or making fun of the other candidate. Junior Ava McFarlane believes that “it’s important to care about politics” because “it applies to us more than we know and it also helps us feel a part of something bigger than ourselves.”
The question is posed: why use social media as a medium for political commentary in the first place? Senior Ellie Crowell says “it’s like any other opinion or view one has on a subject. If a person has a deep interest in politics then posting a statement regarding that view is a form of public expression.” Whether it is annoying or not, all of us are entitled to our opinions and social media provides the perfect outlet to express them. Many students are very apathetic when it comes to politics and they take their aggression out on the people who do choose to express themselves, something that goes against our country’s founding beliefs regarding freedom of speech.
I firmly believe that students should get involved in politics. While many of us at the high school cannot vote in this election, it is still very important that we become familiar with viewpoints on both sides of the political spectrum so we are able to make knowledgeable decisions when we are older. As a “political tweeter” myself, I find apathetic people much more exasperating than those on the other end of the political spectrum from me. I have respect for the students who seek to inform themselves of the important issues that are vital to our future. Our generation is special; we have the opportunity to share our beliefs with others with the click of a button. Let’s not waste that.