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TEEN SCENE: Youth looking left and right

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Political divide ushering itself into teen culture via social media


Colby Gallant is a grade 11 student at Bluefield High School completing a co-op placement at The Guardian.
Colby Gallant is a grade 11 student at Bluefield High School completing a co-op placement at The Guardian.

The internet may be a mine of information, but it’s also a reflection of us.

No matter what’s trending on the social media behemoths, there will always be an endless slew of niche communities to consume the rest.

This is what makes it an endlessly accessible, widely available way of life. The problem being, if the internet is a reflection of us, then ignorance will be a familiar theme. With teens in the equation, eye-grabbing headlines and opinion-catering facts make everyone an expert.

In my experience, the most talked about issues among teens are easy to have night-and-day opinions on, such as immigration, abortion, gender and racism. A lot of these topics transcend age, but the way they are handled does not. Political Instagram pages owned by either far-left or far-right adolescents show exactly what’s wrong with the terms “left” and “right”. The toxic anger between communities and refusal to admit common ground has bred a landscape where joint topics like equality can’t be discussed respectively. I find this troubling especially in a world of disarray where we need unity among the youth.

Suddenly, we as teens, have found ourselves in this global divide that seems stronger than ever.

Issues like racism, sexism, climate change or inequality are always introduced with this idea that the new generation isn’t to blame, but it is responsible to set things back on track. The 2015 presidential election was, perhaps, the largest boom, maybe even a resurrection, of mainstream teenage political interest. In its wake, new issues and ideologies continue to cause division.

Think of your last face-to-face argument. After the last words are said, there’s usually a loose thought or crucial point you forgot to vocalize. This earworm eats away for a little while, until you’ve accepted you’ve lost the argument, or you feel satisfied with your points made.

However, an internet argument is a whole new landscape. Don’t like your response? Delete it and start over. Don’t know how to respond? A few words typed into Google and you’re a scholar. The danger is that it doesn’t encourage insightful conversations, but rather the spreading of false or poorly collected information. Being a teen, I don’t blame my generation. As more un-credible news sources pop up, they offer less news or insight, but add more fuel to the fire.

Politics are a way of life, and I love that my generation is so involved. What worries me is the negativity and ultimate divide we’re creating for ourselves.

Colby Gallant is a Grade 11 student at Bluefield High School completing a co-op placement at The Guardian.

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