Laura Kersten on how social media can strongly influence youth’s voting decisions

Melisa Salas

These days we are living in a digital era where social media is taking over the world. Breaking news is spread worldwide within matters of seconds. The days where we wait for our daily newspaper with a cup of coffee or the news on TV are over now. The only thing we have to do to consume news now is to tap with our fingers on our smartphones and open our social platforms. News happens faster than ever before nowadays.

Laura Kersten is known as a social media expert specialized in politics. She’s originally from Drenthe and studied communication in Groningen. After graduating, she continued her studies at the University of Rotterdam where she started studying public administration. With the thought that there would be way more potential in improving the online presence of politicians, over a year ago she started her own business ‘Kleur op de wangen’. Her focus relies on social media advice and creating content for politicians.

Especially this year with the pandemic, Laura thinks that social media might play a bigger role within the elections compared to other years. “People spend a lot more time on their phones now that we’re staying inside all the time. I think that the average screen time has increased, which means people spend more time than usual scrolling through social media.” But, what does this have to do with politics and this year’s elections? Laura mentioned: “I think that people decide on who they will vote for based on what they see and perceive online. Political parties are doing their campaigns mostly online now.” Another fact we can thank social media for, is that people will see and read a lot more about other politicians as well. “Not only the party leaders are famous on social media, but also candidates lower on the list. The fact that they are seen and heard more than before now, is a very good thing”, Laura said.

But how about this year’s young voters? According to CBS, during this year’s elections 2.4 million people who belong to Gen Z got the opportunity to vote. If there’s a generation who is highly active on social media, it’s obviously Gen Z without a doubt. “There are so many new accounts on Instagram that are making content about politics”, Laura mentioned, “and they give a lot of information in fun and informal ways which makes it easier for young voters to understand the different views on politics. I personally think that it has a very positive effect on the voting decisions of younger people.” she said. There are a lot of different types of posts about politics to find. Some that are very popular and effective at the moment are posts with animation or the carousel. “These posts get shared a lot on social media and that’s so exciting to see. Based on that, I think social media contributes a lot during this year’s elections in a positive way.”

Politicians are more on social media now compared to a couple of years ago. Because of this and algorithms, young people receive a lot of posts on their timelines about politics. “Influencers are sharing a lot of content on how important it is to vote”, Laura said. “Social media is a great tool for finding your own voice, especially on who you’ll be voting for if you have no idea yet. I think that it can be very helpful for creating an opinion on who you’ll be voting for during next elections.”

Although this year’s elections are over, social media will be the ultimate tool for politics in the future. If you have trouble forming an opinion or if you have any doubts on who you want to vote for, platforms such as Instagram will be your rescue.