Social media and youth disengagement within democracy.

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Western Democracies

Peter Dahlgren presents an overview of how democratic systems of government are operating in the 21st century and some of the challenges it faces (for example; participation and engagement). Dahlgren states that it is “the engagement of citizens that gives democracy its legitimacy as well as its vitality”. He contends that whilst many in Western countries remain absolutely committed to the principles of democracy, “the realities of how it operates do not successfully beckon enough people to join in” (Dahlgren, 2009).

Some of the realities include:

  • a lack of trust in Government;
  • dysfunctional and politicised public sphere;
  • media monopolisation/news commercialisation; and
  • a weakening in ideological differences between parties.

Social Media expert Laurel Papworth contends that although rates of engagement may appear to have fallen, what we’re actually witnessing is in fact a shift in the way we think about and engage with democracy. Click here to read more on our website about forms of democracy. Click here to read Laurel’s article, or watch the video below.

‘Politics’, as opposed to ‘democracy’, “has increasingly become a dirty word”, “synonymous … with notions of duplicity, corruption, dogmatism, inefficiency, undue interference in essentially private matters, and a lack of transparency in decision making” (Hay, 2007).

Local politics — schools, zoning, council elections — hit us where we live. So why don’t more of us actually get involved? Is it apathy? Dave Meslin says no. He identifies 7 barriers that keep us from taking part in our communities, even when we truly care.

Some countries, such as Australia, require all able-minded citizens over the age of 18 to vote. Democracy ultimately requires participation from a majority of citizens in order to function correctly and be truly representational. In countries where voting is not comulsory, there are significantly lower rates of voter participation.