The 2016 Presidential election has sparked a millennial cyberwar like none other. We are a generation of smart phone wielding warriors. Hiding behind the anonymity of a digital screen we take to the Facebook battlefield. Armed with only a keyboard, we craft posts that leave wounds deeper than those made by any sword.
Our war torn timelines are smeared with disparaging posts about Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike. But the real bloodbath happens in the comments section. We viciously attack those who disagree with us and vehemently defend those who share our same ideas.
Politics aside, there is one thing all millennial Facebook warriors should be able to agree on. We are all fighting to have our voices heard. We are all engaging in a political discussion because we desperately want change. We all yearn for a better America. While our opinions vary on what exactly a better America looks like, we all engage in these heated cyber exchanges because we agree that we want something different.
We have the right motivation, but are fighting the war for political change the wrong way.
The battle cry of the millennial Facebook warrior is, “say everything, do nothing.” Because “nothing,” is exactly what we accomplish by fighting for political change with what we “say” on Facebook.
Rantic, a social media marketing company found that posts on Facebook are extremely unlikely to change anyone’s views. 94 percent of Republicans, 92 percent of Democrats, and 85 percent of Independents said they’d never changed their view of an issue based on a Facebook post.
Yes, discussing politics on Facebook and other forms of social media fosters discussion. But is this cyber discussion invoking any political change? Research says no.
Nearly half (49 percent) of our generation show no political engagement or report no civil or political activity at all. You wouldn’t think that if you logged into Facebook in the days since Donald Trump was elected president.
We have to stop confusing slacktivism with activism. We have to stop thinking that we are doing our civic duty by giving something a like, signing a petition, or penning an inspirational post about getting out to vote. No matter how clever, well sourced, or eloquently phrased what we write, post or share is, the bottom line is we are not going to bring about substantial political change. It is time we stop lecturing and start acting.
Let’s agree to stop the Facebook political bloodbath, set down our smartphones and instead get out and actually do something. Let’s become activists.
Call your local Democratic or Republican headquarters and ask how you can get involved. I promise you, they won’t turn down your help. Block walk and phone bank. Work as an election judge. Help host fundraising events with your party or candidate. Get involved with your local young/college Republican or Democrat group. Get busy at the grass roots level and work to make your party’s ideas succeed.
And most importantly, vote. Millennials have the lowest voter turnout of any age group. On average less than half of us vote in presidential elections and less than 1/5 vote in the midterms. In the 2016 election, 23.7 million of us (about 50 percent) turned out to vote. These numbers are embarrassing and they have to change.
Think about this. TNS, one of the largest research agencies in the world found that “Across the U.S., the average Millennial with internet access, spends 3.1 hours a day on their mobile devices – the equivalent of 21.7 hours – almost a whole day – every week. That’s 1,128 hours or 47 days over the course of a year.”
Forty-seven DAYS on our phones. If every millennial spent just 1% less time on their phone over the course of a year, and instead spent that 11 hours volunteering for their party or their candidate, imagine what a difference we could make.
The election is over. It’s time to stop celebrating the victory or mourning the loss. Like it or not, Donald Trump will be our president for the next 4 years. Yes, the political spotlight is brighter than ever during an election cycle, but the real work of politics is done in the election off-years. Don’t wait till 2020. Ensure your voice is heard. Get out there and start doing. Your window of opportunity is now. Don’t let it pass you by.
Rebekah Tate is a 2016 graduate of Southern Methodist University.