Youth and politics. Not two words I would naturally put next to each other. While we should be active and informed citizens, there is a worldwide trend in youth disengagement from traditional politics, the reasons being that collective identifications are being replaced through processes of individualism, less economic security for youth and the fact that politicians are disengaged from young people’s problems.
The convenience of following a cause online has led some to criticize the rise of clicktivism. Ashley Moloney, a 22-year-old business consultant, says young people share political causes online to earn approval from friends but have no desire to effect meaningful change.
“While today’s youth may vocalize some constructive ideas and values via social media, they lack the courage to do anything more than update their Facebook status,” Moloney says. She says online activism is invariably linked to offline conversations and the search for more information.
We see how social media has played a significant role in protests and movements, for example the Indignados Movement. There were several online movements in the months before the May 15 public protest, however these did not materialize onto the streets. The movement stemmed from its innovative use of social media as a vehicle for mobilization, showing that while young people may seem to be involved in current events and politics only online, it creates conversation and interest in the issue, which usually gains support and actualizes in real life on the streets.
Occupy Wall Street (OWS) was the name given to a protest movement that began on September 17, 2011, located in New York City’s Wall Street financial district. The ensuing series of events helped lead to media awareness that inspired Occupy protests and movements around the world. However, what is interesting is that the movement started online, as you can see in the protest’s campaign poster with the #occupywallstreet but did not gain support until people were actually rallying in real life. The main issues raised by Occupy Wall Street were social and economic inequality, greed, corruption and the perceived undue influence of corporations on government—particularly from the financial services sector. The OWS slogan, We Are The 99%, refers to income inequality and wealth distribution in the U.S. between the wealthiest 1% and the rest of the population. The protest poster did not resonate with the public and it wasn’t until Tumblr blog: We are the 99%, that people connected, through others accounts of why they are the 99%, making the whole movement real and relate able.