Election 2016: Has Social Media Caused Millennials To Sit This One Out?

I may as well start this off with a story. Right now, I'm a sophomore majoring in Communications at Florida Atlantic University, meaning I have to take an 'Intro to Comm and Civic Life' class. Rather than bore us with lectures about things that we're not going to ever need to know, our professor has instead been trying to lead conversations - not debates, but conversations - recently on the election and if our class, which is made up mostly of people within the 19-23 age gap, is paying attention to what's going on.

Given that the professor, Ms. Patricia Darlington, has been at the college for years and is a fan favorite in the Communications department, it's a welcome change in most students' eyes from the normal standard of note-taking, projects, studying, tests, rinse and repeat. Recently, Darlington asked our class who was registered for the election and I'd say maybe 80 percent of the room raised their hands, so about four of five kids; given that FAU offers dual-enrollment (meaning high school students can take college classes as well despite not being 18) and plenty of people like myself who originate from New York come down to avoid the snow and cold, four out of five students makes sense.

For those interested, I moved from New York, but am now a legal resident of Florida, meaning that I was registered to vote for this election and did. But still, even if 20 percent of students not being registered for the election makes sense when you see four out of five, it's still a bit of a surprising stat given not only what is happening in the election, but also the high number of millennials. As the Pew Research Center reported back in May, an estimated 69.2 million Millennials (adults ages 18-35 in 2016) were voting-age U.S. citizens, which nearly tops the 69.7 million Baby Boomers (ages 52-70), so what gives?

But, when Darlington asked why those students hadn't registered to vote, one student gave the answer that explained it all.

"Yeah, I was just too lazy to register and vote. I know they were registering people on campus but I just didn't feel like signing up."
Too lazy to register and vote? How could this be? I was brought up on the idea that if we can vote, we should, and we have people seemingly nodding and agreeing with this child about being too lazy to even bother registering?

Election 2016 Millennials
[Image by Rick Diamond/Getty Images]

And then, when I opened up Twitter on my phone after leaving class, I think I figured it out. Honestly, maybe what's drawing people away from taking part in the election is just the presence of social media and how nasty it can get. Because of political correctness and tone not always translating well on the internet, it's easy for many to misinterpret what others are saying and thinking about the election.

You can disagree with Trump and hate how he comments on women, but if you think he's the best option to save the economy, you're cursed at and suddenly told that you hate women and are a misogynist who probably enjoys raping women; you're a deplorable who probably is an embarrassment to their entire family by thinking a man who body shames women is the best selection for president. Get ready for every female in the media to come at you and slap you with the strength of ten thousand women!

[embed]https://twitter.com/juliedicaro/status/778720797351292928[/embed]

It's not much better with the other candidates, by the way. Oh, you like Hillary? Great, you're also a communist who hates America! Prepare for the death threats and eggs telling you to get sexually assaulted if you're a woman.

Let's not also forget how much of an impact the media plays, especially when it comes to all of the political ads we see on TV and how nasty they're starting to get. Imagine sitting down for the World Series only to see a fiery political ad between two candidates for Congress as they argue about each supporting either Trump or Hillary for President? What happened to the days of just stating the facts: *insert problem* has increased/decreased during *politican's* time as *role* and *new candidate* is going to change that. Now, we're treated to ads that just continue to the fuel the fire of you fall into a major category by supporting this person!

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBbtCvUGweo[/embed]

For the majority of the election, I leaned Republican and, once Ben Carson was no longer a realistic option, I was considering voting for Donald Trump because I did think he was the best option to help America. As I explained to others, it didn't mean I thought he was right about his misogynistic comments or that I would approve of him ever dating a daughter of mine, but it was more of a 'this guy seems like the right candidate if he can fix what he says' type of situation. Of course, Donald never realized that he can't say the things he says about women, blacks, and veterans and expect the majority of people on the fringe to suddenly say "yeah, this guy is alright."

But, by admitting that I was considering Trump, I opened myself up to a lot of criticism about how I was a 'racist' or how I 'didn't know what consent was because I supported a sexual predator' from people on social media. Why would anyone jump to those conclusions all because of who I was thinking about supporting? I'm far from a racist, I worked with sexual assault victims when I helped out at a therapy center, and I was trying to make the best vote in my first election that I possibly could. What's the problem?

Millennials may have a negative reputation for being lazy and leeching off of their parents' money and success and I won't dispute that view, but millennials also have feelings too; they're human beings trying to make an educated decision. Why are you going to send death threats to someone if they're actually doing the research?

Last month, The Wall Street Journal's Jason Bellini published a report stating that after an interview with two gay millennial men who admitted to voting or Trump, the two had received everything from death threats to comments about 'taking away their gay card.' All of that over voting for Trump? Really?

Election 2016 Millennials
[Image by Ty Wright/Getty Images]

The worst part of this, really, was the seeming dismissal of the death threats by higher-ups of the gay community. Take Will Kohler of Back2Stonewall, for example, who said the following.

"It's disheartening that people made hateful comments. But a lot of people might find it hateful itself to support a man who if selected will take away all the rights and… equality that the LGBT community has made over the past 45 years."
You really can't win this election and that, to so many people, is why they're staying away; the days of just casting your vote, leaving the booth, and going home to watch the results of the election have been replaced with hateful Twitter wars, Facebook threats, and physical confrontations at events because people have differing opinions. This is what the land of the free and the home of the brave has become?

The truth is, I ended up voting for Gary Johnson because I just don't like or really trust Trump or Clinton after watching so many debates and doing so much fact-checking. If you vote for Trump because you've done the research and think he's going to fix the economy and deal with ISIS, good on you. You're lending your vote to Hillary because after all of the fact-checking you did, you trust her to do what's right for the American people and because of how well the Clinton Administration was when Bill was in office? Go for it! You want to write in a cartoon character because all of the other candidates are awful...well, I would suggest actually doing the research on the real candidates.

To all my fellow millennials out there, it's not too late to get informed and figure out who you want to vote for. Take this weekend to do the research, talk with your friends and family, and if you're registered, get out there on November 8th and cast your vote. If you're not registered because you were too lazy or were even scared by this election, still do some research and pick a candidate to really support in the next few days. Learn their policies, their bases, what they're going to do for you and, if you fall into a group of people (i.e. if you're Muslim), your group.

Whether you cast a vote for Trump, Clinton, or Harambe, you're doing the one thing that matters most: putting an effort in to help this country. That's all anyone can really ask for.

[Featured Image by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]