Thompson: Sharing political views on Facebook should take a backseat to actually voting

Laurel Thompson

The 2016 presidential election is not even close to being over, but it has already proven to be one of the most embarrassing—or otherwise subjectively entertaining—elections the United States has seen. From Hillary Clinton’s e-mail controversy to Trump’s antics and Bernie Sanders’ “Dank Meme Stash,” nearly everyone seems to have expressed strong opinions about the candidates online as each new rumor, interview and poll goes viral.

Suddenly, there is a blurred line between American politics and reality TV, and each “share” or “retweet” that dramatizes the election only perpetuates political superficiality in the eyes of the voting public.

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In reality, sharing photos on social media or partaking in online feuds alone, accomplishes nothing but detriment among friends and family. And although American politics seem to have consumed the digital world, a mere fraction of those who post their views will actually make it to the voting booths, making this online conflict even more pointless.

As with anything, actions speak louder than words—and in turn, words mean nothing if they are not acted upon. By this reasoning, I do not believe that anyone is entitled to a political opinion if they choose not to vote.

According to the United States Census Bureau, presidential election voter turnout rose from approximately 57 percent in 1996 to 63 percent in 2004, which has shown a fairly steady outcome in the lower 60 percent range ever since. Given this information, it is only natural to assume that the trend of near half-voter turnout will continue this election season as well, but its current popularity across social media platforms could suggest otherwise if only new voters knew where to start and took the time to out of their days to vote.

The Bipartisan Policy Center suggests that one of the main reasons Americans are reluctant to participate in their presidential elections is because they are simply “too busy,” or are “uninterested.”

While I understand that politics can be petty, obnoxious or even intimidating, it is crucial to our right as voters that we are at least somewhat aware of each candidate’s affiliation, plans and credibility. And yes, this takes some time and mental energy. Although it may mean setting some of your day aside to watch the news or the debates, making an effort to become informed about our presidential candidates will likely lead to curiosity, an educated opinion, and ultimately, much-needed action.

For out-of-state college students and new state residents, there are more obstacles that may lead to absence of voters. Registration issues, for example, are a main reason this demographic has a lower voter turnout, seeing as they may not have gained U.S. residency or met their state’s residency requirements by the registration deadline. They may also not know where they can register, despite the many online, mail-in and in-person options like at the DMV.

For those who already have Colorado residency but have not yet registered to vote, the deadline for online registration is 30 days prior to the election, and it is also possible to register in person on Election Day. If your registration information needs an update (such as a change in mailing address), the U.S. Election Assistance Commission suggests checking with your state or local elections office several weeks before the election.

I remember filling out my own voter registration in high school and it took a painless 10 minutes at the most, so I can testify that it is really not much of an inconvenience. So if voter registration—and any out-of-state complications—are keeping you from participating in the upcoming election, it is best to set aside some time well before Election Day to get the job done. 

And if you think you are “too busy” to vote but choose to share political propaganda online, you’re wrong. Really, you’re just lazy.

On the other hand, some think their vote is insignificant amid millions of others, but these people need to think about it with a different perspective. Everyone’s vote is equally valuable to the collective outcome, as each vote carries the same weight regardless of its nature. 

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Since nearly half of eligible U.S. voters actually participate in the presidential election, the outcome is representative of only a fraction of eligible opinions, making it potentially incongruent with the people’s real choice. So instead of assuming your vote won’t make a difference in the grand scheme of things, think of it as an added perspective in an otherwise less representative poll. Or if that isn’t enough, think of your vote as cancelling out the vote of someone who supports a candidate you don’t want in office.

Put simply, a Facebook post, tweet or meme is not a vote, nor will the political views you share aloud ever be if they are not acted upon. So next time you think about partaking in an online political feud, remember that registering to vote would be a much more productive use of your time. 

Collegian Columnist Laurel Thompson can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @laurelanne1996.