Illustration by Hannah Robinson
The past three years have been some of the most divisive times of recent decades. Polarising rhetoric, advertising built on lies, and empty election promises with snappy slogans have been used time and time again. The election last Thursday was no different.
As electoral analysis of patterns of voting behaviour emerges, it is clear that age, rather than social class, has been the biggest influence on the way in which people voted. In the days and weeks running up to the election, my social media was filled with people all saying the same things, agreeing with what I said, and agreeing with each other. But when the results started to be announced, it was clear that social media had been a bubble. The national vote was resoundingly different to the views of young people across the country.
Before any further election or referendum takes place, we all need to have a greater awareness of how unrepresentative our social media timelines can be. The algorithms behind these platforms are designed to show you content that you like, and in times of elections, things that you can agree with.
There also needs to be an outright ban of political advertising on social media. Whilst I fully support discussion and debate, social media has the potential for political parties to repeatedly micro-target voters. Without balance and without fact-checking this can deliberately mislead people. It would be naïve of me to expect that this change will come about over the next five years whilst the Conservative government, who have benefited from these adverts, remains in power. But Twitter has banned political advertising, with its CEO Jack Dorsey saying that votes should be “earned not bought”. Facebook and other platforms should be pressured to do the same.
There must also be a shift towards campaigns for changes to the electoral system. There is already a growing campaign run by the electoral reform society to make seats match votes. The First Past the Post voting system that I have written about before is unfit for representative democracy. In the general election we have just had, over 860,000 people voted for the Greens who won 1 seat, whilst the Conservatives received 38,300 votes per seat for the 365 seats that they won. These votes per seat ratios are simply undemocratic.
Above all, we need to start supporting one another and especially supporting the most vulnerable in our society. If the last nine years of Conservative governments provide any indicator, the most vulnerable and weakest will be adversely affected by the next five years of government policies.
So whilst I do not believe that the responsibility to provide the basic minimum for citizens should fall to the third sector, I will do whatever I can to support the people that will be most adversely affected by this government. So please, if you can, donate to foodbanks, volunteer your time to help the most vulnerable, support your communities and defend our public services.