Does social media substitute student’s engagement with politics?

The idea that everybody loves to be a part of something isn’t exactly a new trend.
For years, humans have followed one another by habit. Your best friend says she loves Lana Del Ray? By next week you have probably downloaded her album.
It is human nature to play a bit of follow the leader but with the new age of social media taking over, this influence has become more powerful than ever.
With a simple click of the button, be it a ‘retweet’ or a ‘like’, someone can announce or support both controversial and concerning statements.
Politically, this power and simplicity to just follow the crowd through social media is becoming somewhat concerning and skewing our public’s political beliefs.
Due to the easy and undemanding route social media has created for people, I am beginning to think that the passion and strength of political beliefs have been lost.
‘Likes’ and ‘retweets’ have become meaningless and the idea that everybody is doing something has resulted in an era of copycats and people jumping on the bandwagon.
This makes politics and campaigns incredibly hard to predict and follow as people who may be active on social media might not actually do anything to support the political views in real life.
The idea of hiding behind the screen, with 30 per centof young Irish people not even registered to vote, allows people to support certain opinions that they may not necessarily stand up for in front of people in their everyday lives.
Many people have commented on media videos emerging from Ireland’s Repeal the 8th March, ‘Strike4Repeal’, last week. A large number of people seemed to struggle to give passionate educated answers to reporters’ questions. They drew attention to the opinion that they were simply just getting involved with the march for the sake of being involved.
This mind-set obviously completely defeats the purpose of well-organised marches like this for such topical and important issues. People like this are turning them into more of a social scene or an Instagram opportunity and degrading the fact that their consequences could be life-changing.
With just over half of young people in Ireland between the ages 18 to 25 casting a vote in last year’s general election, we can’t help wonder if repeal might have the same result.
Some began to question the idea that people were supporting the powerful movement in their lovely ‘REPEAL’ jumper as it was trendy more than anything, and were perhaps failing to see the greater issue at hand.
We are lucky if we have the opportunity to have a voice and shout for our beliefs in today’s world. We should not take for granted what for some would be a luxury.
With power, comes responsibility and the public need to respect this and really think about what they are doing the next time they jump on latest campaign for all the wrong reasons.
It cannot be denied that social media has done wonders for political movements. The engagement it creates and the publicity it allows for is something that should not be forgotten.
The positive outcome of the same-sex marriage referendum encouraged this participant attitude by proving to young people the power of their vote.
“So many people are registered from the marriage equality referendum and now people feel as though they can actually make a difference,”a speaker from the National Youth Council of Ireland said. However it is down to the individual themselves to educate themselves on their political beliefs.
We cannot forget the impact the click of a button may have and the differences small actions can make. So although it is important to be involved, it is equally as important to be educated.

Aoife Marnell