Clicktivism is all about using digital media to bring about social change and if you get people interested or inspired enough, you will create the other ‘ism’ known as activism! So are you being a Slacktivist when you click like on the Green Peace campaign page and not attend the rally, or are you a virtual activist who is able to express an opinion online, (a vote is still a vote)? I can imagine that when politicians read lines such as “Youth engage in Political Activism Online” they get a bit edgy. Political brainwashing is not nearly as effective if individuals can discuss issues with their peers. Politicians want voters to listen to them not to internet chatter, and we are talking global, not just local. Joseph Kahne and Ellen Middaugh state in their paper Digital media shapes youth participation in politics:
Those concerned about the future of American politics should consider how such social media and participatory politics could change the landscape. For example, participatory politics give youth independence from traditional keepers of information and political participation such as political parties, interest groups, textbook authors, and newspaper editors. Youth can put out their own narratives about what is on traditional media and share among their networks, and their comments help shape how their peers think about the information.
Scary stuff? Well maybe, if you are a ‘not too honest’ politician being viewed through the fresh-eyed lens of the nation’s youth. As Henry Jenkins points out, youth can be empowered to “deploy skills they have developed as fans and gamers to make a difference in the world”.
Both Jenkins, Kahne and Middaugh highlight the importance of education to enable youth to make more informed political and social decisions. It is therefore essential that current educational guidelines are reassessed and made relevant to the digital age and its participatory youth. Cynicism and doubt are usually present around something new. It is a primordial function of any animal that a strange object must be sniffed and inspected before it is accepted and even though we no longer outwardly behave this way, there are some of us who take a little bit longer to come to a position of acceptance. The educators of our youth need to discard any cynicism or doubt they may have surrounding digitally enhanced learning, and put systems in place which will give them (youth) the skills needed to engage in participatory politics.
There is no doubt that politics have become digitised. Barack Obama brought politics online in 2008 with his election campaign and there are some who say he would not have been elected without the internet. The strategy to use social networking which relies on peer-to-peer transfer of information, as a vehicle for his election campaign, won him the loyalty and support of the Democratic youth. There is however, the fear expressed by Robert Putnam in his book Bowling Alone, that we are becoming socially disconnected due to the impact of television and the internet on our lives, but there is equal evidence that ‘bowling online’ creates more accessible opportunities for individual participation.
Youth education plays an important role in fostering a greater understanding of the way in which social networking can be utilised more effectively in political and civic actions. ‘We are the 99%’ is the slogan of the Occupy Movement which speaks out against social and economic inequality. The movement has been active since 2011. Since 2012, some Universities in the United States, such as Columbia and Roosevelt, have become more involved and are offering courses engaging with “Occupy”. The Occupy Wall Street movement did not gather momentum until the emphasis was shifted away from traditional methods of marketing to the social networking platform of Tumbler. ‘We are the 99 percent’, the catchcry of the Occupy Wall Street movement led to its eventual success and the globalisation of ‘Occupy’. These five words became the message calling for unification and collaboration and the Internet was the medium through which the message was delivered.
We are the 99 percent. We are getting kicked out of our homes. We are forced to choose between groceries and rent. We are denied quality medical care. We are suffering from environmental pollution. We are working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we’re working at all. We are getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything. We are the 99 percent.