Michaels: Social media has people talking politics, but are they voting?

Facebook was a veritable hotbed of activity Monday night. “OMG! I can’t look,” wrote one of my friends as election results started rolling in.

Facebook was a veritable hotbed of activity Monday night.

“OMG! I can’t look,” wrote one of my friends as election results started rolling in.

A fellow reporter in another city announced she interviewed a young woman who was bawling over the results: “Awkward,” she penned.

The next morning, another wrote; “I’m sure it was a bad dream.”

She was faced with a quick rebuke from her Saskatchewan situated little brother who noted all the “sour grapes” should be over with—“Canadians have spoken.”

He’s not on my friend list.

That said, while one clearly doesn’t pick their friends—Facebook or otherwise—based on their political leanings, my collection were nearly unanimously shocked and awed by the results.

Actually, with a few days of perspective under my belt, better descriptors would be; maudlin and prone to virtual bouts of melodrama, but I digress. At the time, our emotional keystrokes were reflective of genuine disappointment that we hadn’t made the expected impact.

Partisan result ruminations aside, it’s now clear prolific social media campaigns from 30-somethings down to teenage vote-mobbers weren’t able to reverse the tide of apathy that’s washed over this country.

In fact, our 140-character outbursts may have just cloaked its depths.

The 2008 election marked an all time low with 58.8 per cent of voters turning out at the polls, and it seemed we were poised to turn that figure on its head. Clicktivism—the term hung on web-based activism—gave hope there would be a voter surge.

In the days before the election, online chatter about the fearsome things Harper would do to the arts, social welfare net and kittens filled my social media accounts. People would weigh in on policy, spark conversation and act like they were engaged.

As my friend’s brother said, it seemed like they were ready to speak.

But, I should have paid a bit more attention to what was happening in the real world. When I was unplugged the political lay of the land was a verboten topic. In some circles it was almost embarrassing to show interest in the process. As though p-word discourse made you snooty, aggressive or just boring.

Comments like, “I just don’t know much about politics” stopped conversations, but I assumed those verbal exchanges were reflective of the minority.

This election’s 61.4 per cent turnout rate, however, showed that wasn’t the case, and frankly, it’s put a bad taste in my mouth that no political pundit can wash away by blaming politicians, as they’ve been doing.

This falls on the heads of Canadians who are busy whining and updating their Facebook statuses.

Being engaged in the world is a responsibility. It doesn’t have to be sexy, fun or youthful. Pithy ways to make points are irrelevant.

It’s time to figure out how this country works, and take part in making it functional.

Then, when the time comes, go to the polling stations and make an informed choice.

Online fear mongering aside, the one thing Harper can’t do over the next four years is stop us from voting.

Kathy Michaels is a staff reporter.




Kelowna Capital News