“Hashtag—Fail!” is the youth pandering phrase that came with me out of Tuesday’s leaders’ debate.
For those who didn’t watch the fun-fest, it’s what NDP leader Jack Layton uncomfortably blurted out to address shortcomings in Stephen Harper’s crime policies—specifically, what’s lacking in diversion programs.
“When some troublemaker comes up and tries to tempt (youth) into that life of crime, with the bling and everything else that goes along with it, instead they’ve got something positive to do,” he said.
He said a bit more about the status quo, then dropped; “that’s been a hashtag fail on this issue.”
Comparing the results of the Conservatives’ tough on crime stance and the Opposition’s plan to create preventative programs is a worthy pursuit.
Lingo aimed at wooing the social media set, however, was so jarring—even by the standards of one as woefully plugged into the workings of Twitter and Facebook as I am—that the topic was overshadowed by musings over the youth vote and its influences.
For those blissfully unaware of Twitter, a hashtag is used like a tab people once put in their notebooks to mark what’s important.
When there are enough tabs/hashtags on a Twitter phrase, it’s “trending” and gets noted for its popularity.
Debate day, Layton’s “hashtag fail” was a hit, rising to the top of 42,500 election-related Twitter posts.
It’s no wonder that it drummed up a bit of attention, really. It was the only moment candidates made a play for the illusive youth vote. It’s often treated as a lost cause considering last election only 37 per cent of eligible voters between 18 and 24 turned out to the polling stations.
So a blatant ploy to punch a hole into their online world could go really well, especially considering the only way it’s been used previously in this campaign was to establish causes to kick out rally goers.
Initial feedback from university students I asked this week, however, painted a grim picture.
“It’s dishonest,” said a UBCO engineering student, explaining that he uses Twitter to network with friends, and an NDP candidate trying to break into his world, in that way, seemed disingenuous.
Others hadn’t heard Layton’s youth-friendly lingo, adding what they saw of the debates was far from intriguing, hashtags or not. Above all else, however, being treated like Pavlov’s dogs was irksome, making them more leery of the process.
Frankly, it was discouraging news. It brought on an “end is nigh” funk that didn’t ebb until I hit Facebook again and stumbled upon Vote Mob references.
Through that I learned Canada’s youth aren’t so apathetic after all. They may not like being baited like monkeys to take part in their country, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care.
They do, however, need a purpose and some have found it between being treated like a lost cause and wanting change for their country.
University students across Canada are rallying online with the intention of using their voting power election day to show that they do have a voice, and intend to use it. Before that happens, they’ll be gathering in spots across the country to drum up support and build excitement around the election.
It’s aim was to show might in some of Canada’s less secure ridings, but Kelowna students aren’t letting the opportunity for activism pass them by … even in a historically conservative riding. And if you head downtown April 21, you may get a chance to see the face of this community’s future.
So, go and Google “Vote Mob” if you want to see a genuine “hashtag—success.”
Kathy Michaels is a staff reporter for the Kelowna Capital News.