The Presidential Debate in the 21st Century

Stacey Stein Multimedia Manager

After watching the presidential debate, I have a lot of thoughts. As everyone watching the debate can agree: there was a lot going on. Yet, despite the many layers of politics at play, and the intense divisions brought on by this entire election cycle, there was one incredibly positive thing I saw Monday night. Practically everybody I know my age actually watched the debate live. And, not only did they watch it, but they cared about what was happening and it advanced their investment in this election.

The debate officially started at 9 p.m., but I unfortunately did not get out of class until 9:30. By the time I pulled out my phone, my Facebook newsfeed was dominated by statuses about what was going on, my snapchat stories featured a myriad of Trump with every filter possible (and some very creative face swaps) and even Instagram got in on the game.

Now, as I type this, I can see my grandparents rolling their eyes (especially after I explain what Snapchat is) and launching into a “back in my day” saga that ends with them telling me that posting on social media is not actually participating in politics.

They certainly have a point. In 2012, according to the United States Census Bureau, just 38% of the voting population ages 18-25 voted in the presidential election. At the end of the day, it is our votes that count. Putting a flower crown on Trump’s head is not doing anything to get him in or keep him out of office.

Yet, for us millennials these posts on social media have become an important way to participate in the political process, albeit differently than in the past. So much of the news we get is dominated by what is on our Facebook feed. Whether or not this is how it actually should be, the fact remains that our social media has become where we get informed about many issues.

Posting a critical status online may not hold the same weight that going to a political rally does, nor does it serve as any kind of substitute for voting. Yet, if Facebook is where we are getting information from, then it does hold value. This process is problematic in many ways. For one, our newsfeeds are going to be incredibly biased towards giving us news that we already agree with.

However, engagement with issues online translates to engagement in person, where hopefully real debate can occur. And, from what I’ve seen, it seems that people our age certainly do care and are motivated to register and vote. There has been so much negativity that has come out of this election cycle, but if there is one positive takeaway, it seems that it has mobilized young people to become more engaged in politics.

So, for the next debate, and for the next 6 weeks, I hope that politics continue to take over social media. Sure, it may get annoying, but if people are engaging in these issues in any arena, I see it as a positive thing, that will hopefully result in a big turnout for millenials in November.