I will be the first to admit, I have always been somewhat skeptical of my generation. As a high school graduate, I have spent the past four years of my life watching many of my peers fall into the inescapable void of social media. I assumed many of them were too distracted learning Tik Tok dances to pay any attention to the food fight of politics, but over the past few weeks, I have been proven completely and utterly wrong. 

With the death of George Floyd sparking international outrage, much of that anger took root with those in my generation. The same kids I had written off as vacuous social media junkies took to the very platform I condemned to enact change. From reposting stories with petitions and fundraiser links to attending marches for Black Lives Matter, the outpouring of support and engagement in social activism rekindled my long lost hope for Gen Z. But now, weeks after the height of the Black Lives Matter movement resurgence on social media, these posts that were once a deluge have trickled down into a sporadic drip. 

Black Lives Matter is not a trending bandwagon to hop on when others are doing it; it is a social justice movement that transcends the feeds of Instagram or Twitter. On Black Out Tuesday, when millions posted black screens in solidarity with the BLM movement on their Instagram feeds, it seemed that there was a real social awakening occurring. But, sadly, all the black screens and hashtags in the world won’t amount to any sort of effective change. Here is the truth of the matter: Our part isn’t over. While raising awareness on social media is a great start, there is so much more in the way of reform that needs to occur, and a major step of this change occurs with the upcoming 2020 election. While Black Out Tuesday encouraged social media users to show solidarity with the BLM movement, Tuesday, Nov. 3 is the time to catalyze this digital support into political action by electing leaders to enact the reforms that have surfaced in the wake of the BLM movement. 

The 2020 election will be a historic one for many reasons. For starters, the incumbent President Donald Trump has set his sights on getting re-elected for a second term, ramping up accusations that mail-in ballots will lead to voter fraud, despite the fact that he himself used a mail-in ballot. For another, former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive democratic nominee, has proven an unpopular choice among young Democratic voters, many of whom favored the more progressive presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. But despite the divisiveness and polarity of the 2020 election being thrown into harsh focus, it is a historic election because Gen Z has the potential to make a huge impact on which candidate ends up in the White House. 

In the 2018 midterm election, young voters were able to make their voices heard, with a historic turnout from statistically underrepresented groups like women and minorities. It was this turnout that turned the House of Representatives blue, and this same kind of voter presence will be necessary to turn the tide of the 2020 election. But amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the logistics of hordes of eligible voters crammed in polling booth lines is counterintuitive to the fight against the raging pandemic that has already claimed upwards of 100,000 American lives. To address this, mail-in voting seems to be the likely alternative in the 2020 election, despite harsh criticism, namely from the president. Even with mail-in voting alleviating some voting stress, Gen Z voters, many of whom are college students, have expressed concern over the logistics of mail-in voting, opting to allow their political voices to be drowned out by the cacophonous din of the pandemic. 

As the looming 2020 election hurls closer, it’s chalking up to be a revolutionary one for many reasons. Over the past few weeks, young people have made their digital voices heard. In the wake of public outcry regarding police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement, social media has upgraded into an effective tool for spreading awareness and catalyzing a mass following, but it has also done something much more powerful. The massive show of support on various platforms like Instagram, Twitter and Tik Tok is evidence of an ever-growing collective consciousness among Gen Z, many of whom will be eligible to vote in their first presidential election in 2020. 

From posting black screens in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement to falsely inflating the expected number of Trump supporters at a rally, social media has evolved from an idle form of entertainment to a brilliant platform to unify Gen Z behind a collective banner of revolution. If we can harness this incredible social awareness and convert it into political participation, we can make a difference for the better. Still, while Gen Z holds the power to alter the outcome of the 2020 election, they can only do so if they make the effort to vote, which is critical to achieving many of the goals that have surfaced from recent discussions of systemic racism. So, if making Tik Toks and Instagram posts to raise awareness (or even just for fun) is your forte, just make sure you put your vote where your Instagram feed is and show up on Election Tuesday. 

Madeleine LaPierre can be reached at madlapi@umich.edu.

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