As Millennials, we may be entitled to more blame for our absurd political situation than we would like to admit.
“No way,” I hear you objecting. “This has nothing to do with me. I would never support a candidate with such small hands and I can't fathom why we're subjected to all of this nonsense.”
Trust me, I hear you, but that's not exactly what I mean. I'm talking about the way that we, as a group, have changed how information is consumed. And it all started with Mark Zuckerberg.
According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, 62 percent of US adults get their news on social media. As the most far-reaching social network, the two-thirds of Facebook users who get their news on the site account for a whopping 44 percent of the general US population.
This real-time access to news, that values sensationalism for trend-worthy stories, has changed the reporting ecosystem in favor of provocative headlines and soundbites over well-researched content. In light of this, traditional journalists and news outlets are competing to stay relevant and much of our reporting has been watered down to meet demand.
It's no wonder Donald Trump has monopolized media attention during this election season. Who's more provocative than a crass, unapologetically rude demagogue?
The good news is, the knowledge we compete with reputable news sources, simply by virtue of being active on social media, is a powerful concept.
Here are four suggestions for how we can use our power and our social media profiles to promote progress:
1. Think before you share.
This election season is like watching a train wreck: It's hard to look away. Before this piece is published, one of the candidates will have made another outlandish comment. No, I can't believe he said it. Yes, it's totally ridiculous. But, instead of giving him the media attention that won him the nomination, think twice before you hit that share button. We can take control of the conversation if we exercise some restraint.
2. Do your own research.
Professional journalists have an impossible task right now. News outlets need an audience to sell advertising space and to stay afloat and they have no choice but to follow that audience. When it's responding to sensational headlines on social media, our news is all going to begin to take that shape.
Instead of taking a story at face value, do some of your own research to understand our current political climate, foreign policy, a candidate's political history and their current platform. You're not going to get this stuff in your trending newsfeed. Seek out outlets like NPR, PBS, CSPAN and BBC, all of which have positive reputations for supplying consistently unbiased and well-vetted content.
3. Use your influence.
After you've done your research (you responsible member of the voting public), share what you've learned. Your social media profile is its own news source. Brands understand that an individual's social media influence is valuable, which is why the popularity of influencer marketing is skyrocketing. Use that influence to share valuable information and instigate a positive change.
4. Get out and vote.
Although Millennials go head-to-head with baby boomers when it comes to the largest generation of voting-age adults, we're also the least likely to get out and vote. Many of us feel like there may not be a point, especially with new insights on the party nomination process that have shaken our confidence surrounding political ethics.
But, there is hope. As one of the largest groups, we can't be ignored as long as we actually show up. So, rock the vote and share it on social media when you do. Seeing you participate will inspire others to do the same.
While the political landscape seems comical and hopeless, we have significant influence and the ability to work together to promote change. The strength that we have as a political group brings with it a responsibility to be mindful of the part we play in the political process.
Rather than inadvertently perpetuating shallow news stories that lead to a turbulent social ecosystem, we can use our collective voice to change the conversation, as long as we make ourselves heard. Fortunately, we have a powerful outlet quite literally at our fingertips. So, hop on the keyboard and start reflecting the change you want to see.