Gay marriage, gun control, the confederate flag, and lethal injection — aside from abortion, we’ve hit all the hot button social topics that are usually reserved for an election year. From the gun lobby to the LGBTQ groups, there are a plethora of issues to get involved with and take a stance on from the safety of a status update on Facebook. Over the past two weeks, America has bore witness to the banning of the Confederate flag, the legalization of gay marriage, and a quarrel between the Supremes on the ethical nature of lethal injection calling into question the constitutionality of the death penalty all together.
In what was dubbed the ‘running of the interns,’ Americans and press gathered outside the steps of the Supreme Court to wait for decisions on the aforementioned issues. With every decision from the highest court in the land, Americans rejoiced, embraced, and celebrated a victory for their cause. Facebook profile pictures have been altered to show unity in the legalization of gay marriage. People weighed in on the removal of the confederate flag by posting various articles on their timeline. But long after the profile picture filters have been removed and the opinions on gun control, the confederate flag, and Obamacare have waned, the decisions by the Supreme Court will remain.
As America faces a pivotal moment in it’s history with the upcoming election in 2016, it is now more important than ever for Millennials to be heard. While social issues tend to do well in polls they do not have the pull to entice voters to show up on election day. The Millennial generation has become synonymous with the term slacktivism, and it is unfortunate. When it comes to hard work and doing what it takes, Millennials struggle with pushing on unless there is an incentive, be it money, fame, or power. As a generation, we measure our impact and importance on the number of Facebook likes and Retweets. We are more connected than ever and yet we’ve never been more disconnected from society.
In 2010, Malcolm Gladwell addressed the ever-growing role technology and social media play in today’s society when it comes to supporting a cause, Gladwell references the 2009 Twitter Revolution in Moldova when protestors took to the streets to protest their Communist government. Twitter had activated the protestors and brought them together, and only a few months later, Twitter would be the force behind the student protests in Tehran. While I wouldn’t argue Twitter’s capabilities of being a vehicle to help bring people together, I would argue, people are no longer being defined by their causes as much as the tools they are employing to get their message across.
Long before Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, people had to really want to believe in a cause, and while the Millennial generation has had the ability to be disruptive in the workplace, you won’t see them pounding pavement or sending handwritten letters to their Congressmen urging them to support a cause. If they can’t RT, Like it, or share it from the comfort of their iPhone while they sip their Lattes in a cafe working remotely, they won’t weigh in.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge advocate for technology and social media. It has enhanced our lives in ways never thought possible, but when it comes to civic engagement it has enabled us to be lazy. The recent rulings delivered by the Supreme Court are a prime example of Millennial slacktivism at its finest, and it doesn’t stop there. Next year, Americans will head to the polls and choose the next resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Arguably, this will be the most important election in recent history. From fractured relationships with allies in the Middle East, hazy foreign policies abroad, and the looming student loan crisis, voters, namely Millennials, will have the ability to change the direction our country is headed, all they have to do is show up and vote.
By the time November 2016 arrives, Millennials will represent a voting bloc of 80 million people, and candidates have taken note by moving into the digital space, learning various platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. Campaigns and politicians alike have become so desperate to woo the Millennial vote, they’ve brought their campaigns to them. For a generation that has turned the workforce on its head and made no apologies, it comes as a shock that we’d be so blasé when it comes to choosing America’s next leader.
Then again, maybe it’s not surprising. As a whole, our society has become comfortable writing scathing reviews on Yelp, and has zero issue changing their profile pic to show support of a cause, or re-post a picture of a soldier overseas fighting for our freedom to remind their network why we have the luxury of BBQing on Memorial Day. But ask someone to get out from behind their computer screen or put down their iPhone for a cause, and the number of those willing to do so dwindles dramatically.
At some point, Millennials will have to step away from their computers and get involved. After all, as the largest voting bloc, it is our generation that has more skin in the game than anyone else in America. Isn’t time we got off the sidelines and actually played the game?