The Internet offers a vast opportunity for politicians, organisations and individuals to be civically and politically engaged. By acting as a platform for communication and information, young people can feel more connected in an informal, flexible space that allows them to freely present and share ideas. Social media has transformed democratic processes that were once arduous, long procedures, into tasks that are easy and accessible.
Significant organisations have integrated social media platforms in order to boost engagement of a younger demographic. For example, the Australian Electoral Commission have created social media campaigns in order to encourage formal electoral participation. Furthermore, many traditional media organisations have incorporated new media initiatives such as live twitter feeds and hashtag discussions in order to appeal to young people. These examples have worked towards empowering young people and connecting them to somewhat intimidating political discussions and activities.
It is also important to note that social media can disengage young people where politics is concerned. Whilst it is difficult to measure, social media has the potential to reverse quality developments in youth engagement within the public sphere. If youth are substituting offline behaviours for low cost, low impact engagement online such as liking a political Facebook page, this could have detrimental effects on the overall levels of effective and meaningful political engagement for young people.
Above all, in the rise of the digital age, we found that social media has emerged as a new outlet for democratic discourse, particularly amongst youth.
This project was completed in June 2014 by Samantha Lloyd, Bella Walker, Jordan Di Stefano, Gianna Mazzeo and Steve Holland as part of RMIT University’s Bachelor of Communication (Media) program, Media Industries 1 course. You can contact them via email: firstname.lastname@example.org