Without a doubt, the internet is the greatest political tool of our time, vastly increasing the spread of information in much the same way as newspapers and television before it. However, unlike these previous political and technological marriages, the internet stands out because it only gives as much power to the politician as it does to the common citizen.
It was no coincidence that the aspiration for democracy within politically-entrenched Arab nations such as Syria and Libya arose soon after modern forms of social media had gained mass adoption. Revolutions such as these are not borne out of Facebook or Twitter, but they are helped in no small part by the connections between people that these tools enable.
And as more people are given access to the internet—particularly in Africa and countries such as China—the political implications will only grow further. Facebook, Twitter and blogging—once the domain of first-adopters and computer geeks from California—are today tools used by many other demographics, old and young, for exchanging information and organising social movements.
Young people probably know better than anyone else how quickly a video on YouTube or post on Facebook can spread. And when it comes to politics, most of us have something to say of the recent Marriage Equality bill and perhaps also the Youth Starting-out Wage. Yet, I’m not so sure that young people on the whole take near as much notice of politics in their online lives as they do of their own networks of friends and followers. As young people, we have the ability, and I believe, the responsibility, to become more involved in influencing the decisions which are made at every level of our society—from the school board of trustees to the government.
Sure, you could do as every social studies teacher would tell you, and read the paper every morning (a good option for those who can’t open a web browser without simultaneously opening Facebook), but there are plenty of other ways to stay informed and involved with politics.
As a young person, having an interest and a say in the way our country operates is about more than simply learning how the system works or being educated on the policies. Our views on all sorts of issues are crucial, as the country which we eventually lead will be defined by them. We may not have a vote, but as natives of the digital world, we have the opportunity to define how the internet influences the future of politics in our country.