How Gen Z engages with politics

A generation that uses social media as a tool to encourage people to vote 

By: Shaquille Joy

Social Media apps have become tools, especially for younger generations, to voice their opinions and see immediate change happening. While we shouldn’t forget that there are a lot of negative sides to these apps, they are part of our lives now and can also be used for positive change. Gen Z turns out to be one of the most activist generations and that influences how they use social media platforms and also counts for the current elections in the Netherlands. While older generations have been following the usual tv election debates and programs, the first and second-time voters have a huge pool of information to choose from through social media.

In addition to Twitter, Instagram and other familiar social media apps, Clubhouse seems to be the new online place to be. Founded in April last year the app only really gained popularity after famous personalities such as Kanye West and Elon Musk joined. According to AppAnnie, grew from over 3.5 million global downloads to 8.1 million from February 1st to February 16th 2021.

Clubhouse is an audio-based social media app, which is currently invite-only and merely available on iOS. In other words, iPhone users get to have live and unrecorded conversations in which people from the audience can be chosen by the speakers to join. In that way, the app is very interactive and creates fewer barriers when it comes to who gets to speak and chose the subjects since everyone on Clubhouse can start their own room with their own topic.

In the past two weeks, people in the Netherlands made a lot of use out of Clubhouse when it comes to discussing politics. One of the people using the app to promote voting is Arantxa Oosterwolde. The 21-year-old model just got her law degree and next to all of her creative projects she also uses her social media platforms to speak about politics. Arantxa says that everything you see is politics and that is why it needs to reflect society, but that is not the case in reality at this moment in her opinion. “What motivates me the most is to see what we as individuals can do to change society and you see real live examples of that on social media” explains Arantxa. She sees social media platforms as a tool that can’t be neglected since it is part of our lives, especially in her generation. For her, voting is not enough, which is why she also sees it as her responsibility to stimulate the people around her, off- and online, to vote. Arantxa hosted Clubhouse sessions about politics and voting with various people joining the conversation, on the last two Sundays before the election week. The sessions were a collaboration between OSCAM, HipHopHuis and MovieZone and part of the campaign GO VOTE which aims to encourage young people to use their voice and vote.

For young people who just get into politics, it can be quite difficult to navigate through a field that oftentimes doesn’t use the same language as they do. This is why during the Clubhouse sessions the speakers suggested ways in which young people can figure out whom to vote for. One example mentioned was the new platform Represent!, which can be found on Instagram, Snapchat and their website that has an electoral guide made in a language that feels more relatable for young voters. The people who founded Represent! happened to be in the audience of this talk and could join the speakers to explain that the parties often have programs that aren’t easy to understand for young people and that is what the electoral guide of Represent! wants to change.

In the end, Arantxa says that some political parties use social media very smart because they understand the power it has but she also mentions that if more parties would recognise that even more people would vote. What she likes about Clubhouse is that “it feels like a safe place to talk where it can also get very personal.” The gap between political parties and people gets smaller through interactive platforms like these where it is possible to listen and learn but also share personal thoughts. Now we can only hope and wait to see if young potential voters use their voice in the Dutch elections this year.