By Brittni Henderson
It was just a few days ago when one of my friends sent a meme poking fun at Donald Trump that said “Orange is the New Black,” using the title of the popular Netflix series to satirize the presidential candidate hopeful and the current Commander in Chief Barack Obama. At this point, I did laugh a little bit but also rolled my eyes. As far as my opinion is concerned, the upcoming election is nothing but a joke to many people, especially with the help of creative social media users. This wasn’t, and won’t be, the only comical image or message that I will see leading up to Election Day. As much as I enjoy a good chuckle every once in a while, when it comes to the leader of the United States of America, I feel like there should be a greater sense of seriousness.
On another note, I do feel that with the presence of social media in our society today, many individuals are more involved than they would have otherwise been. There are definitely those ill-educated folks who run to Facebook to post their opinions as a status and argue with others who don’t agree—freedom of speech, anyone? But for the most part, news websites that are constantly updating with articles, videos, and other information make it easy for us to read up on what’s happening and what these candidates stand for—but that’s if you want to read about it.
In my opinion, which is in no way supported by any sort of formal study, from scrolling through my various forms of social media, I feel that many young people in the age range about 23-30 are mixed in their feelings when it comes to anything political. One post may be someone sharing her most recent thoughts on a debate and the very next will be someone complaining about how annoying our government can be. The next few might be a joke about how much this person despises our current President, followed by someone sharing an article that is most likely false from a completely unreliable website that I’ve never heard of before. There are so many different messages out there, that I’m not even sure how I even feel about the election.
I wanted to get an actual feel on how those around me felt, so I spoke with four random friends about the topic. These individuals are diverse and come from four completely different backgrounds. This group is comprised of two males and two females, all of whom have different levels of education, but who have experienced a least a little bit of interest in the upcoming election.
John Hanna, 25, of Springfield, MA has never really been too interested in politics and is not registered to vote. There is no concrete reason behind this decision; he just never felt the urge to do so. With the existence of social media, he has heard of the most commonly talked about candidates (ie: Trump, Clinton, Sanders), but really has no opinion on the matter. He admits to knowing “absolutely nothing about politics.” Hanna’s stance isn’t uncommon with individuals in our generation. There are many who stand in the same position and I think that’s because some feel that their opinions may not matter, or that they don’t feel that the outcomes will have any sort of effect on their lives. I feel that on a personal level I am a little bit more involved, but with the overwhelming amount of information and the different opinions being constantly thrown my way, I can relate to him very much.
On the other end of the spectrum, Brenden Agrela, 25, of Smithfield, rates his political interest a 9 on a scale of 1-10.
“There’s always more that someone can learn about the world around them,” Agrela says, “but I feel like I am able to keep up on current events, as well as taking time out of my busy schedule to do some independent research on topics that have been brought up in the news, in debates, etc. I’m always up for a heated discussion with anyone willing to discuss.”
Agrela is a registered Democrat who feels that he is more socially liberal and fiscally moderate. He relies on many forms of media to gather his information, including Yahoo Finance, politifact.com, MSNBC, and his own personal research. He also feels very strongly that The Daily Show, although it’s seen as more of a comedy program, can be a great source of information, especially because it might be the only way that some people can get information about what’s happening in today’s political world.
“Despite what some may think, these shows do a lot of their own research and are able to bring real news to the viewing public in an entertaining way which is
easy and enjoyable to digest,” Agrela says.
He also feels that social media has played an integral part in this election for a few different reasons. Years ago, friends, family, and even strangers, would have to debate their opinions in person, whereas this can all happen in a matter of seconds in places like Facebook and Twitter. He also feels that social media plays a negative role in some ways. There are many misleading or even untrue messages that float around, so it can be hard to decipher the truth from mere opinions.
“However, although both good and bad can be seen all over social media, we cannot discount the fact that freedom of speech is being exercised to its fullest,” says Agrela. “My hope is that we can use social media in a cooperative way, by stripping away emotionally charged arguments for candidates and expose real, observable and proven facts on how policies would work in the real world.”
Shannon Caliri, 23, of Lincoln, owes some of her political knowledge to social media and is thankful for the Internet because without it, she may not have been able to formulate the opinion she has today. Caliri declares herself a Democrat and hasn’t let the thoughts of others taint her views.
“I kind of started seeing and learning things on my own.” Caliri says. “I’ve unlearned everything I was taught growing up.”
Miriam Okero, 22, of Narragansett, relies strongly on the political opinions of her mother to formulate her own.
“She is very politically aware and can always explain both sides of policies and issues.” Okero says. “She definitely has her own biases, but is able to have constructive conversations and analyze politics from different angles despite her feelings toward the issue.”
Okero also utilizes news websites to gather information. She especially enjoys BBC because with half of her family residing in Kenya, she likes to make sure she has up-to-date knowledge of worldwide events, as well. Okero also feels that social media plays both a positive and negative role in politics.
“I feel as if some people post things on social media just to get a rise out of others.” says Okero. “I think that if these avenues were being used as ways to educate people with facts about the upcoming election rather than just bashing opponents then it would be positive but let’s be honest most of it is negativity.”
As an unofficial gauge on the potential voting outcomes of my friends, I asked them whom they would potentially choose in the upcoming election. Let’s just say that between these four, the resounding opinion was anti-Trump.
“Please do not vote for Donald Trump he definitely will not ‘Make America Great again!!’” Okero urges.
“I want Bernie Sanders as our President just to make sure Trump DOES NOT WIN…because that’s just terrifying for everyone,” Caliri states.
“I believe that Donald Trump attempts to appeal to the anger of people in the country that don’t feel like they’ve been given a fair shake at prosperity, “Agrela said. “While I feel for these people, his hateful, racist rhetoric is terribly dangerous to the future of this country as a whole. He has truly brought out the worst in a lot of people.”
As much as I try to remain neutral when it comes to political conversations in my daily life, I do know that it is important that, no matter what you consider your level of knowledge to be, that you try to engage yourself in the upcoming election. As an almost 27-year-old woman, this President will have more of an impact on my life than others. It’s scary to think that one person could have so much influence on my life, but an inevitable choice we all have to make.
Where do you stand? Share your thoughts, or favorite hilarious Donald Trump memes, with us on Facebook or on Twitter.