Power Of The Hashtag: How Social Media Turned Me Into A Political Activist

by Briana Maddox

As a kid, I never really had much of an interest in politics. I thought it was one of the most monotonous things someone could be interested in. Every time my family was together for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner and brought the topic up (which was inevitable), I'd just tune them out and start doing other things that held more of my interest.

Why would I want to know what the latest political scandal was, or who was running for office? That stuff didn't matter to me, and I didn't really care because it seemed to affect me very little (or so I thought).

I had very few friends growing up who had a heavy interest in politics, so I was never really exposed to a lot of general, basic knowledge of what was going on in the world of politics, and I didn't know how to make sense of all of it. It wasn't until senior year of high school when I started going on social media more frequently. I came across a large number of politically active users, and I started to pay attention more to the government and its happenings.

I follow a lot of celebrities on social media, so when I followed them, I thought I was going to see a slew of the entertainment content I was interested in. But then, I started noticing just how politically charged some of these celebrity accounts truly were.

Even then, it still took me a while to get interested in politics because I never constantly saw people posting about it. Yes, it was in my feed a lot more often, and yes, it was capturing my attention, but I still didn't care enough to really understand the importance and complexity of it all.

Near the end of senior year of high school, I started to gain more of an interest in politics. I had recently started coming out as bisexual, so I started to get more involved in the LGBTQ+ community. That's when I noticed how much politics affected my life.

A whole slew of human rights problems faced my community, and many of those problems still exist. So, of course, I started to get more invested in trying to understand those problems and the politics that affect both the issue as a whole and my personal life.

After getting involved in politics in the LGBTQ+ community, the doors to the other areas of politics began to open. I started intentionally following politicians and activists on Twitter and Tumblr, and I started looking into different social and political issues of the past in order to compare them to the present. Hell, I even thought about becoming a political science major because of it.

By doing so, I realized just how much politics affected my life, which made me all the more interested and invested in it. By the time my freshman year of college was coming to a close, I realized I still hadn't registered to vote. This was right around the time the presidential election started to pick up speed in the news cycle.

Through a bit of trial and error, I figured out how I could register to vote while I was away at school. I filled out and sent in a form I found online so I could be registered to vote by the beginning of summer.

Although the presidential election was still a year and a half away, I wanted to be prepared. This was a feeling I had never felt in my entire life; I was actively involving myself in the political process.

When I arrived home for summer break, my voter's registration application had gone through, and I had already gotten my voter's ID card in the mail. Simply having the paper card in my hand made me extremely excited.

It meant I could vote. It meant I could help choose the government official I thought to be most capable of being in office. It meant I could affect how future policies and laws were chosen and carried out. It meant I could vote for who I thought would best run our country.

The possibility of helping foster change was still enough to make it seem like I could make a difference in the future of my state, country and even international policies. For me, being able to vote and be involved in the government — even in a small way — was exciting enough because it made me feel invested in my own future, the future of others and the future of the country.

I now feel more responsible in trying to decide what future generations — and my own generation — will have to deal with. And that all happened at the hands of social media.