Discuss and debate the issues that mean the most to you.
If one more person asks me if I'm registered to vote, I'm going to scream. I get that question about a hundred times a week, and every time, my answer is the same.
"No," I reply, feeling uncomfortable. "Not yet." Then comes the inevitable question, "Why not?"
I stick to my standard response, explaining that I don't feel I'm adequately educated on the candidates and their views. Normally the topic is dropped after that, but sometimes the person — understandably — tells me to educate myself. However, this is much more easily said than done.
Don't get me wrong; I've tried. I stream the debates and follow the conversation on social media. I subscribe to an email service that breaks down the news and I read it every morning. Yet, when the discussion around me turns to politics, I don't join in. Instead, I smile and nod politely and look for the quickest way out of the conversation.
It's not that I don't have opinions — I am an outspoken individual — but there is just so much information out there. It can be difficult enough to sift through the nonsense, let alone figure out what I personally believe. When it comes to topics such as the economy, foreign affairs, or health care, my eyes glaze over.
I consider myself to be an intelligent and engaged member of society. I try to stay up to date on current affairs, but I just can't make myself care about one candidate over another. On my college campus in downtown Boston, I am surrounded by students who are clearly "feeling the Bern." Online, I see Facebook post after ridiculous Facebook post discussing Trump and his antics. It is clear to me that my views align much more closely with those of the liberal candidates, but that's about as far as I get. Bernie? Hillary? Where do I stand?
Yes, I understand that decisions made by the future president will affect me as a student, a woman, and an American citizen. But I just don't feel a connection to politics. In fact, the White House feels much more distant to me than it should to a native of Northern Virginia and I don't think I am alone in this experience.
The world of politics is a confusing, nuanced place. I think it is necessary to open up the conversation and consider the fact that maybe politics are too accessible to young people. Election-related content is constantly being churned out by every major and minor news source. These articles are written so quickly that they are often factually incorrect or littered with typos. My peers post articles on social media that I don't think they even took the time to read themselves.
Perhaps it is the bubble of my liberal arts college, but I feel that there are an overwhelming number of resources made available to millennials. However, the amount of information that is actually useful and non-biased is very small. When it comes to using these sources to form our own political views, all of this "news" can be disorienting. In a country where many students are not voting, despite a significant amount of engagement on campus, it is clear that changes need to be made.
Many of us grew up with our parents' opinions at the forefront of our minds. Their perspectives most likely influenced us as we matured. I know this was the case for me. Rather than deciding for myself what I believed, I simply took on the views of my parents.
Now that I am trying to come into my own, I still seek out sources like Last Week Tonight, The Daily Show, and The Onion more than CNN or The New York Times. The engaging, comedic, and often satirical voices of personalities like John Oliver and Jon Stewart put politics in a much more interesting light, but I do realize that my political views should not be informed solely by this type of media.
In today's society, it seems that everyone is expected to take a stand. If this is the case, the outpouring of digital media may be hurting more than helping. Articles are produced more quickly than they can be fact-checked, and political debates rarely stay on topic. It should be understandable if a person — millennial or not — wants to take the time necessary to make an informed decision.
I'm twenty-one years old and I'm still trying to figure out this whole adulting thing. As the time for me to enter the "real world" grows nearer, I am making a conscious effort to care more about politics. Since I most recently answered "no" to the voting question I hear so often, I have registered to vote. I may not end up exercising this privilege in 2016, but by 2020, I think I'll get it right.