My voice matters: Despite other influences, students begin to figure out their own opinions on current issues

My voice matters: Despite other influences, students begin to figure out their own opinions on current issues

Scrolling on Instagram, freshman Chloe Sanders realizes there’s something off about her feed. Instead of the typical inspirational quotes and selfies, every other post is political. One blames the California wildfires on climate change, another shows protests in Portland with people raging in the comments. Chloe quickly becomes overwhelmed by the political swarm crowding her screen. What used to be a fun app for her to blow off some steam now feels like a debate stage with people constantly lashing out at those they disagree with.
“I’m tired of it flooding my phone. It’s like someone walking up to you and yelling their opinion at you. I didn’t ask for that,” Chloe said. “On social media, that’s where you want to see peoples’ lives and see what’s going on. You don’t want to see their opinion on stuff.”
Recently, people have increasingly used social media as an outlet to discuss current events, speak about causes that are important to them, and to directly share their thoughts on the upcoming election.
Among others, Chloe doesn’t like how people utilize online platforms in relation to politics.
“You can post whatever you want on social media, but if you don’t have the same views as someone, you’re silenced,” Chloe said. “You’re not allowed to speak your mind. When you get to hide behind a computer and no one knows who you are, you can say whatever crap comes out of your head.”
Although the media can be used negatively, junior Bryce Johnson sees the overflow of information as a positive and feels it offers him easy access to learn.
“There’s at least one [political post] every five posts I scroll through,” Bryce said. “I prefer it like that because it’s a constant income of news and I always know what’s going on.”

He uses the media’s convenience to balance the opinions he reads.
“I follow multiple news companies from both sides, both Democrats and Republican on Instagram,” Bryce said. “I research whenever something happens in the news and look through all the different sources so as to not be biased to one side.”
Bias has become an area of concern for students trying to form their own political opinions.
“People only want information that benefits them. Especially with Fox News, CNN, or any other Republican and Democratic news sources, they are flooding in the information that supports them,” Chloe said. “But people refuse to watch certain news stations. I’ve even done that. I’ve seen an article and thought, ‘oh that’s not good. I don’t want to read that.’”
Often bias doesn’t only come from news sources, but also from family influences and the political opinions teens grow up listening to.
“I think some people are afraid to have different ideas than their parents because, you know, that’s their family,” Bryce said. “When I was younger, my parents impacted it [my opinions] a little bit. I kind of just followed them blindly. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve formed my own thoughts. Thankfully, I don’t mind having different opinions than people now.”
The people you grow up with can also help you better understand what’s going on in the world.
“When my mama says something to me pertaining to politics or anything going on in America or the rest of society, I’m quick to listen,” sophomore Kayden Crawford said. “We bounce off each other and have conversations that expand into more important things going on.”
Rather than feeling pressured by adults, Kayden sees discussion as an opportunity to learn from someone wiser.
“There is always somebody out there more experienced, who knows more than you do,” Kayden said. “We’re in our early days. You can learn a lot by yourself, but you can’t learn everything, which is why you need to have close relationships with adults.”
For others, discussing politics with their parents doesn’t feel like an option.
“I think it’s too messy [to talk about politics] and I don’t want to ruin any relationships,” senior Cris Garcia said. “People get serious about it [politics]. It’s a big deal, but also Americans should have their own views, choices, or beliefs.”
Chloe feels the same.
“People today are very radical,” Chloe said. “Everyone’s yelling at each other, but I wish we could just sit down and have a civil debate. It’s really hard to get an unbiased answer to things.”
Often teens feel politics aren’t worth exploring because of the hostility they see from older people involved and others on the internet.
“It’s a generational thing. Families pass down beliefs and they’re hammered into your mind,” senior Cris Garcia said. “I think eventually our generation will start the change, or maybe our kids will start the change. But we can get to a point when politics aren’t such a touchy topic.”
Along with hostility, students, many of whom are not even old enough to vote, have a hard time getting involved in politics
“I think it’s a mix of not caring because we’re still young and not necessarily having to care about that [politics] right now, even though it does affect us,” Bryce said. “You feel like your voice isn’t heard because you’re young, so they [young people] just decide not to waste time. We feel like we’re not going to be heard.”

However, some young people feel it’s important to be involved in politics.
“Our generation is starting to open our eyes more and see the things that are going on. We are getting more politically aware,” Bryce said. “We’re next up on the scale of things. We’ll be the next presidents, so it’s very important that we start forming our own opinions and figuring out what we believe in now.”
Despite other influences, students are trying to figure out their own voice.
“It’s hard when you haven’t experienced the real world yet, and you’re not really an adult with an adult mindset,” Chloe said. “But we still need to inform ourselves because young people are easily influenced. I’m trying not to let social media impact me because people are trying to push their views on us. It’s our responsibility to get our own sources of information and do research.”