Just two months into the new year, 2021 is already politically distinguished and arguably historic. Following Joe Biden’s inauguration and the recent Capitol Hill riots, many have turned to social media as an outlet for their political expression. With little research and a deluge of misinformation overshadowing events, many tend to align themselves with political beliefs they do not fully understand.
Through acclamation or ostracization of a political view, politicians detrimentally alter the way many perceive beliefs. Communism, for instance, has been heavily reprimanded by many politicians and used as a campaigning tactic. Many posters and slogans mocking or creating an irrational fear of communism are often reposted online and referred to in Tweets and other forms of social media. Politicians’ words and promises to the people are often influenced by large corporations, bribes and self-benefit. Although empty, some people praise and parrot a politician’s beliefs without taking the time to understand what they are supporting.
In the vast digital world, hundreds of articles, Tweets and podcasts referring to politics are posted daily. On the receiving end are information-seeking teens who, more often than not, have trouble finding reliable sources and differentiating true information from false. Without knowing it, they may read biased news sources that focus on catering to one political party more than educating their audiences about the truth.
Misinformation can also be spread in smaller circles. Whether at the family dinner table or in a group chat, inaccurate knowledge can easily be relayed to mutuals. Peer influence extends past repeating false information, and some students make it difficult for others to express differing political beliefs.
Political movements have even been aestheticized by many teens. Slogans such as “Hello Kitty Says ACAB” picturing a cute cartoon figure and the “ACAB” slogan amassed popularity after extreme acts of police brutality were projected on the media. Many students reposted these slogans on their social medias due to how aesthetically pleasing they appeared. Ironically, these slogans did more harm than good and diminished the gravity and credibility of the movement.
When students blindly side with a belief, they become false representations of its core purpose. They tend to reprimand beliefs countering their own, creating an unfair stigma and tarnishing the freedom in political expression.
Although some teens educate themselves politically and form their own opinions, a substantial number of teens do not conduct proper research and only exacerbate the impact of social media on the current political divide. Uneducated teens stigmatize certain political views and their blind attempts to educate others ironically spread more misinformation.
Voicing one’s political beliefs is a right many lack, and the younger generation must use that privilege wisely. Upholding political diversity and respecting views that differ from one’s own is the right direction towards closing the gaping political divide. Overcoming the barriers of ignorance and striving to seek out proper education from unbiased, factual sources are the first steps to a more inclusive future.