Let’s talk: uninformed voters edition

Abigayle Allen

A study done by Hopelab and Well Being Trust has found that 93% of young people between the ages of 13-22 use some form of social media daily. While this is the way of our world at this point, how does this use of social media affect our voting habits?

During Covid year 2020, many of us turned to social media to find some sense of normalcy and come together as a society while being on lockdown. Because of this, many activists and creators had a platform to tell their stories and raise awareness for societal needs in a way that has never been done before. As election day came and passed, I was shocked at the number of creators that shared their personal political views online to their booming platforms. 

In a democracy, we are privy to the use of propaganda over the years. It is no secret whether you are a rightist or leftist that your representatives, our government, uses propaganda to sway voters one way or another. However, the use of propaganda is seen as an easy way to spread misinformation and cloud our young voters’ judgment. This is seen explicitly on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

“Facebook and TikTok failed to block advertisements with “blatant” misinformation about when and how to vote in the US midterms, as well as about the integrity of the voting process, according to a new report from human rights watchdog Global Witness and the Cybersecurity for Democracy Team (C4D) at New York University.”

This new study found that major social media platforms are profiting from ads designed to stop people from voting. This recent experiment tried to run ads on Facebook, TikTok and YouTube featuring blatant election misinformation about how to cast your ballots and whether the elections were safe. The claims presented in these ads contained information that election dates had been changed. Facebook approved a significant number of these ads, but TikTok approved 90% of them. Now in case you were thinking this is because these platforms are incapable of screening every ad before they run, YouTube stopped every single one of these ads and suspended the account that tried to run them. YouTube’s performance proves that these other platforms have no excuse. This is yet another example of corporate greed literally destroying democracy. 

On top of fake ads being approved, many influencers and popular creators turn to their platforms to spread misinformation for views. This is not to speak for every creator, however when spreading awareness or information, one must be careful to do extensive research on what they are sharing. Many young people, instead of conducting their own research, turn to their favorite influencers and cast their votes based upon knowledge that may or may not be true.

I would never fault someone for having an opinion or an opinion that differs from my own. Sometimes it takes debating and differing opinions for changes to occur. However, it becomes a problem when people stop thinking for themselves. I think social media can be used as an excellent tool to spread information, but it is also important that young people learn to take this information with a grain of salt and even begin fact checking to ensure that this is not just another form of propaganda. 

I will never pretend to be a person that is fully and completely knowledgeable when it comes to politics. Sharing my political views or debating about my opinions is something I like to keep between my family, close friends, or in the privacy of my own home while conducting my research for the potential next candidates. I am not here to say that this is the best and only way to conduct yourself when rereferring to politics, however it is what works best for me. 

With my disclaimer said, I think it is our jobs as journalists, opinion columnists and citizens of the United States to prevent the spread of misinformation. It is our responsibility to help educate those who may not have the opportunities to gain upper education. It is our responsibility to conduct educated votes that will help make our democracy grow stronger, in turn strengthening our government to support our growing societal and economical needs.