Although the full data isn’t completely out yet, statistics cited by National Geographic show that young American voter turnout during this election will likely surpass that of the record-setting 2008 election. Though the data won’t be solidified for a while, social media may have been a significant factor in bringing out the young vote.
This year, both Facebook and Instagram actively encouraged their users to vote. Facebook included links to register on many users’ news feeds, and Instagram posted information under photos pertaining to the U.S. election. Even TikTok, a video platform, included a link to election information underneath relevant videos.
The popularity of these apps and their innovative algorithms that present users with content tailored to their interests has allowed large groups of people to rally around specific causes. Social media has given young voters a platform to unite on common issues, including racial equality, abortion stances, LGBT+ issues, global relations, climate change, economy and gun rights.
The platforms are used to organize and announce protests, educate about injustice and encourage participation in democratic processes, amongst many other politically-motivated uses.
In early June, the true reach of this power was shown when it came time for Donald Trump to go on the campaign trail. Leading up to Trump’s June 15 rally in Tulsa, K-pop stans and TikTok users spammed Trump’s ticket registration site for the rally, putting in a total of over one million ticket requests. On the day of the event, the Bank of Oklahoma Center, which seats 19,000, saw an attendance of around 6,200, despite the larger attendance anticipated.
This event is evident that social media activism can have a profound impact on the country’s proceedings, no matter which side of the political spectrum it benefits. This could also be seen as a downside of social media activity.
While this may seem trivial, social media may have also been the catalyst for much of the Black Lives Matter protests this summer. After the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police officers, many users took to Twitter to share their outrage and call for justice.
Continued protests against police brutality have occurred ever since, with some groups protesting for over 100 days. You cannot deny the effect of social media activism.
It has put the microphone and the camera in front of the masses and given them an eager audience, and it is unlikely that it will go away anytime soon. As Gen Z gets older and more of its members hit voting age, young voter turnout may only increase.
Social media can make this generation to be more invested in politics and the world around them, and it will continue to play a more significant role in local and national elections moving forward.