Social media and youth political engagement within democracy.

Introduction

“Understanding the influence of political Internet use, and especially new venues and capacities for social interaction, on offline conventional forms of political participation and political knowledge is especially pertinent to understanding younger citizens, who are more active online than previous generations.” (Conroy, Feezell & Guerrero 2012 )

 

Youth are a demographic often perceived and categorized by their political apathy and lack of engagement. Having grown up with the internet and social media, this emerging generation has a penchant for getting its information from the Net, especially on social networking sites” (Winograd & Hais 2008, p. 164). Creating significant opportunity for new forms of political communication, engagement and participation, web 2.0 is a relatively new online environment that youth are familiar with – with 97% of American teens online, social media use is also significantly dominant (Conroy, Feezell & Guerrero 2012).

 

Just as many aspects of everyday life have been incorporated online and into social media, “the Web 2.0 paradigm has carried with it certain expectations regarding its potential for political activity” (Larsson & Moe 2014, p. 328). Politics then, has been adapted into the online environment, with campaigning and participation becoming as important online as they offline.

 

As social media served to democratize political activity online and level the playing field, individual citizens now have the power to be as involved as politicians and media. Online political activity has evolved political participation, and the roles of both citizens and politicians have evolved into more diverse, interactive online presences. To fully take advantage of social media, users (including politicians) must integrate listening, conversation, UGC, sharing, and interacting into their practice.