Friday, 20 March 2015

Please Don’t Be Boring UAlberta

Don't Be Boring UAlberta Adventure Bear

My plea is this: don’t be boring. Just don’t do it. I bet that if I take a look at any one of your social media accounts right now, I’ll be lead to believe that you are an opinionated, fun loving, free spirit, who is passionate about [insert that thing that you absolutely love and when people think about you, they also automatically think about that thing, because, you + that thing = obviously]. And yes dear reader, I do know that the lives that we lead on social media are a little (or totally) misleading, and that everyday life is a tad more mundane, but there isn’t anything wrong with that. The point that I’m trying to make is this: you obviously have passions and you are capable of expressing yourself. And while social media is a fun way to show off, it isn’t the only way…

Did you know that you – yes YOU – can express yourself in a way that can have a huge impact on how the world around you works, simply by colouring in a dot (or by drawing an “x”… or by connecting two lines together, or even by writing a check mark)? Hopefully you do. And hopefully you know that I’m referring to the simple (but totally impactful) act of voting. But given that there are approx. 2.9 million eligible voters in Canada who are between the ages of 18 and 24, and only 38.8% of them voted in the last federal election (in 2011), I’m a little worried, that the majority of you may not have experienced colouring in a dot, or drawing an “x,” or connecting a set of lines, etc. (which are just a few of the different voting methods that the ballots I’ve used have employed). 

So, what’s going on? Why do we youths (as the older people might call us) seem to be in-experienced when it comes to voting – or WORSE… why do we come across as being apathetic? 

Youths gif
Image courtesy

“Young people often say they aren't informed enough to vote or that they are too busy to vote. The real reason young people don't vote isn't actually about them at all, it is a catch 22,” is what Ilona Dougherty of Apathy is Boring told me. “Elected officials / candidates don't think young people will vote so they don't reach out to them and engage them. Research tells us that the number one way to encourage a non-voter to become a voter is for an elected official or candidate to talk to them face to face.” And just what are we supposed to do with this catch 22? Ilona told me “to fix this we need both young people to recognize the value of their vote and we need elected officials to realize that youth will vote if they make the effort to reach out and engage them.”

So, right about now, you might be thinking “right… like my one little vote REALLY counts” and the reality is, that it does. It TOTALLY does. Youth have the potential to decide who wins an election. We do. It is that simple.  Remember when I mentioned that only 38.8% of eligible voters between ages 18 – 24 voted in the last election? Well that means that approx. 1,125, 200 young people could have voted but didn’t… and do you know how many votes ultimately decided the last election? Only 6201. That’s it. I might not be a “math person” but I do know that over 1 million votes is greater than 6201 and might have led to a different outcome if they had been cast. (Or, maybe it would have resulted in the exact same option, but the reality is that we just don’t and can’t know now.) 

So, if the majority of us didn’t vote last time (and yes, I do realize that the 18 – 24 crowd of 2011 is now the 22 - 28 crowd now), who did express themselves and decide how things should be run? Our parents and grandparents, that’s who. Even though we are adults who have every right to act as the previous generations’ democratic equals (because we are… our opinions are just as valid and just as worthy of being counted as theirs are), when it comes to our democracy, we’re letting them call the shots. “Think about the things that bug you in your life and remember that most of them are probably impacted by decisions that governments have made. Do you want your parents and grandparents making all the decisions for you?” Ilona asked me. “By not voting and getting involved that is what young people are letting happen. By not voting and getting involved that is what young people are letting happen. By not voting and getting involved that is what young people are letting happen.” And ya know what guys? She’s right. 

What are we to do? Number one, we can start paying more attention and admitting that we DO care about what happens. We can acknowledge the fact that governments have an impact on our daily lives, and that we have an impact on government. On all government – whether it’s the various councils and elected student bodies on campus, or the various levels of Canadian politics, we have the opportunity to say how we want things to be done every time an election is called. And most obviously of all, we can vote when the opportunity arises. We can express ourselves by marking a ballot. We just have to actually get up and do it. 

So, please, please, please don’t be boring UAlberta. Be you – that awesomely thoughtful, lively, and engaged you that you like to show off to the online world… but in real life. 

- Updated on October 8, 2015


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