In this day and age, where the majority of young people get most of their information through social media and search engines, the practise of source-criticism and objectiveness becomes more important than ever. Engaging young people to care about politics and expressing their opinions, as well as listening to opposing opinions, becomes more important than ever in order to ensure a democratic future.
Democracy is meant to be inclusive and let everyone have their say. However, the way in which we access news might involuntarily affect which voices and opinions we hear, creating a division among the news outlets. According to a study by Nordicom, a nordic information centre at the University of Gothenburg, young people between the ages of 15-24 in Sweden use social media as their main source of news. News in social media are easy to access and digest, but they are usually aimed at specific interest groups. People click news articles that they find especially interesting, which endorses the algorithm on the platform to bring forward similar news articles further on. For example, a person who is especially interested in sports will mostly get exposed to sports related news, while a person who is interested in economics will be subjected to financial news. This phenomenon is called a “filter bubble”, a term invented by the author Eli Pariser.
This is a problem in all of society, not just among young people.
A filter bubble can help websites and social media platforms to target article links, advertisements and group recommendations (Facebook groups for example) to people based on their profile, salary, political orientation and interests, among other things. This causes users to only get exposed to news and contacts that confirm their beliefs. This is a problem in all of society, not just among young people. Young students today are learning more about how to apply source criticism to social media and how to look outside the filter bubble when looking for objective information, which is important in order to stay credible when citing sources. Using search engines that do not store personal data, such as DuckDuckGo, or trying to find news articles that provide a wide range of perspectives are some examples of ways to overcome filter bubbles.
For the last couple of years, I, as well as many other youths, have been drowning in news about the climate crisis. One research report after another, I click on them all as they appear in my recommendations. This might have brought something good for me, a wake up call that had me making changes in my daily life and had me engaging in political contexts. Although, being passionate about a subject to that extent has sometimes narrowed my field of view. As I have learned, there are companies trying to take advantage of the climate movement to make profit, alarmists that want to create headlines and a lot of personal interests at stake. Having this in mind allows me to listen to opinions that differ from my own, without becoming defensive.
I have been told that I have no place in a political debate until I have broadened my experiences, or to put it clearly: gotten older.
But what I hade noticed trying to make my voice heard among others, mainly from people of older generations, is that I fall under the category of an “ignorant youngster”, who just wants a reason to grab the spotlight and have an emotional outlet. I have been told that I have no place in a political debate until I have broadened my experiences, or to put it clearly: gotten older. The people that oppose what I believe in usually have a different opinion than mine, that gets validated by their filter bubble, which provides them information that confirms what they already believe in. Only focusing on one side of an issue is something that older generations get away with more often, while younger people get disregarded as inexperienced for the same mistake.
People are not necessarily wrong when they say experience comes with age. But this alone should not be used as an argument as to why young people should not express their opinions without being ridiculed. The issue with filter bubbles and angled information is something that almost everyone has or will encounter at some point. Therefore, we should not narrow it down to “just a problem among youths”. A democratic society concerns everyone, no matter old or young, rich or poor, educated or not. Instead of focusing on how long a person has lived or how many merits they have on their resumé, we should all focus on stepping outside of our filter bubbles and opening ourselves to other experiences and opinions.
We need to get rid of the misconception that age or level of experience is what makes a person credible.
If we want a political climate that includes young voices, we need to get rid of the misconception that age or level of experience is what makes a person credible, and instead let everyone in into political discussions. Credibility is not something you should automatically get at a certain age, but rather something to be earned through the ability of looking outside of your own beliefs.