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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Social media valuable on Election Day

Published: November 7, 2014
Section: Opinions

I am a hipster. Or I would be a hipster if hipsters defined themselves as hipsters anymore, but they don’t. So maybe I’m not a hipster after all? Is this the hipster paradox? The point remains: My thick-rimmed lens of the world and social media looks favorably on the sarcastic posts and ironic uses of hashtags against any other conventional mode of sharing information.

However, when I logged onto Facebook for the first time on Election Day, at 7:53 p.m., I found a flood of coinciding statuses that read “[Name] at voting in The 2014 U.S. Election” with a collective link to “Find out where to vote and see what’s on your ballot.” What had been going on all day via Facebook? The hipster-not-hipster in me was appalled. Here we had a clearly mainstream approach to letting people know about your personal choices on Election Day. So obvious, utterly cliche and, dare I say, tacky. I scrolled through my homepage and mulled it over. The eclectic array of voters on my screen was astounding. It was energizing, to my complete bafflement. Voting is powerful. I love voting. As a woman, my demographic has been able to do so for fewer than 100 years in this country. I cannot help but feel it symbolizes the equality we feel as a nation for each of its members to be represented: one person, one vote.

This being said, it is so easy for me to say this. As a white woman attending a relatively liberal university, I have access to polling stations and the knowledge and Internet access to obtain an absentee ballot. I feel free to express my opinion and empowered to seek changes to our government because while this system doesn’t always work for me, it does not work obviously against me either. Biased media sources and political figures who run on platforms that their voting history does not justify do not warrant trust. They do not engender belief in a system that aims to make our lives better or easier. As I’ve heard countless times before, “What is it good for?” Yet where voter ID laws, long lines and lack of education remain reasons that there is not equality in practice, every time we push to share this importance we prove that we know voting must one day fix this inequality.

In this high-tech age, the way to mobilize the masses could very well be to tell them the mundane activities, truths and beliefs of your life. We’ve been doing so since middle school, or whenever you first made a Facebook or Twitter account. Although an extraordinarily imperfect system, with the outdated electoral college and conspicuous means of funding, politics are the empowerment vehicles of our country. Voting is the federal right we, citizens of the United States, are granted.

Preliminary reports seem to have proven on many accounts that this Facebook link and tag chain made a difference in these midterm elections. And although midterm elections seem to have, in numerous ways, bolstered the set structures of new and increased federal gridlock and set the groundwork for increasingly devastating reproductive rights legislation, the ways we empower one another still matters.

The actual non-hipster-hipster in me had a change of heart and realized that this is what social media is for. What was happening before me—the sharing of individual people voting—was a stumbling into a brewing revolution. Here was a movement, one our generation understood. People weren’t preaching their belief in the importance of voting but rather their actual stance on the issues or candidates. They weren’t marching or handing out pamphlets or other forms of literature. Their form of social influence was, although subtle, much more effective in action. They were telling their story, then letting us all decide for ourselves.