I am part of the first-time voter generation: Social Media opens up avenues for discussions that change our perceptions and engage us in broader community.
By: Estée Goel
I counted down the days until the 2020 election because I knew it would be the first time I could vote as I was now 18. It was a moment that I looked forward to as a kid and even more so as I grew older, learnt more about civics, and became more engaged in community and government. I always knew that the 2020 election would be special for me, but I could have never imagined the circumstances.
I finished my senior year with my peers online, graduated six feet apart in masks, and am now nearing the end of my first online semester of college. If there’s one thing to be learned through all of this, it's that change is constant. Our task is to overcome each change, not always with grace, and be ready to tackle whatever curveball comes next.
The craziness however has not at all distracted today’s youth from our goals, ambitions, fights, or dreams. These remain constant despite the constant change. We have continued to fight for things that are important to us. At my own high school, we walked out against school shootings, walked out twice against climate change, encouraged the inclusion of authors and stories of varied backgrounds in our curriculum, and organized town and county-wide protests in support of Black Lives Matter.
Together, young people around the world are having hard conversations with families and friends, and beginning to recognize in what ways we are privileged and in what ways we are not. We recognized that our lives can be so similar yet so different at the same time, and you never know what is going on behind the scenes. We won’t stop pursuing our interests and creating our own ripples of change. We are here to remind the world that the generation of the future is more than capable of changing the world to let it reflect our own beliefs.
In this election season, we showed up – 53% of us, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University. It was inspiring to see my peers around the nation showing up to vote and delivering the highest youth voter turnout in this country’s history. While we may not always agree on economics and politics, we do agree that it is our job to change the course of history.
I’ve always called social media activism performative -- a “cop out” way to check the box of supporting a cause -- but I’m realizing it goes beyond what we see at surface level. Social Media opens up avenues to discussions that change our perception of the world around us. It shows us glimpses of countries far away, and introduces us to events that we would have never known about. It allows us not only to express ourselves, but to inspire each other to do the same. It reminds us that we are a global community – a global force! When we work together, we achieve the impossible.
Today’s youth is less concerned about self-image, and more about self-sufficiency. Though we are often viewed as screen-addicted and over-sensitive, I think we are also idealists. We look for a higher purpose in the work we do and we will continue to fight for our future.
As a first time voter, it wasn’t the physical act of voting that made it so special. Yes, I took a picture at the dropbox, and yes, I was excited to vote, but the important thing was knowing that I was a contributing member of a generation that can quite literally change the world.