Social media isn’t igniting a passion for politics among teens

By Khandekar Hussein and Muzamal Iqbal

It was one of those daily mail stories on Snapchat that caught Katherine Ralda Turcios’ attention.

“I usually would ignore it because it has some stupid stories about celebrities, but there was actually an interesting story on it for the first time,” said Ralda Turcios, sophomore. “It was about how Hillary Clinton was going to give free college if she had been elected as president.  I clicked on it and read the whole thing to the bottom, so I started reading more and more and that got me hooked to learn more about the election that year.”

Out of more than 67 million Twitter users in the US, about 10 percent is teens according to the social media site. Political science scholars Juliet E. Carlisle and Robert C. Patton of the University of Idaho note that 80 percent of young Americans view electronic media as a ‘useful source of political and issue information’ versus 48 percent of those over 25 years old.

“Some kids may retweet people who speak of common sense gun laws,” said Nell Kalter, film studies teacher and pop culture aficionado, “especially since the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas became so vocal after the terrible attack.”

Roughly one-third of social media users say they often comment, discuss or post about politics or government on the social media platforms, according to the Pew Research Center, but more than one-third are worn out by the amount of political content they encounter.

“I was just on Instagram scrolling through the timeline and I saw some post about Donald Trump,” said Zamarys Alcantara, sophomore. “I started reading more and more until I got tired of it.”

While social media may be providing a new outlet for some young adults, it is not re-engaging those who have already lost interest in politics, according to a 2017 study published in The British Journal of Politics and International Relations.

“I ignore [political social media] because I am really not that interested in politics,” said Richard Pacheco, sophomore. “Now it’s getting annoying because it keeps popping up on my timeline.”

Teens, in general, are more reluctant to express opinions in social media for fear of threatening responses, according to a July 2015 study published in the Journal of Youth Studies. Young people carefully manage political self-identities.

“I feel you have to watch what you say,” said Brian Giuliani, senior. “You don’t want to portray yourself poorly…you want to get into college or get a good job.”

Social media was one of the most influential elements of 2016 presidential election, according to Statista, as it provided candidates with direct access to the public to discuss their political views. Donald Trump’s tweet “Make America Great Again,” for example, was retweeted 45,000 times, according to Twitter.

“The first quote I retweeted was ‘Make America Great Again’,” said Ralda Turcios, sophomore. “ I honestly thought that it was a joke at first when [Trump] posted it, that’s why I retweeted it.”