Navigating the blurred line between politics and peers, and why it’s important to know where you stand
PHOTO C/O: Alex Motoc, Unsplash
Friends and social media can shape your political orientation and ideologies. From a tweet shared by your favourite celebrity to a comment made by a close friend, several studies show that you may begin to question, and possibly even alter, your political stances in agreement with those around you.
The power of social influence is not a new revelation. For decades, psychologists have noted the ability of social groups to modify and impact individual behaviours and opinions. This phenomenon occurs as a means of meeting individual needs of acceptance and belonging through conformity in society.
On a smaller scale, the power of social influence can prompt you to follow basic etiquette in public. However, on a much greater scale, the people around you can affect your political views, causing you to take an ill-informed political stance before casting your ballot. As a result, without adequate information, you may end up siding with a political party or candidate that does not truly represent your beliefs and values.
Research is singlehandedly the most valuable strategy to combat and mitigate the power of social influence. Exploring each political candidate and their platform can help you solidify your political views to make a well-informed decision.
While it may not be completely obvious at first glance, there are certainly damaging ramifications of inadequate knowledge when it comes to politics and voting. A lack of political understanding diminishes the value of having democracy and leads to an inaccurate reflection of the public’s true wishes through government policies and action.
Take Paul Fromm as an example of the rash consequences that could result if ballots are cast with such blissful ignorance. Currently running in Hamilton’s nearing municipal election, he is a white supremacist and neo-Nazi that spearheads several organizations with deplorable objectives.
The stark and concerning reality is that there are very few eligibility criteria to run for a municipal election in Ontario. As such, it becomes the sole responsibility of us citizens to support and cautiously grant power to candidates whose visions and values align with our own.
So, whether you are preparing to vote at the next municipal election or an upcoming MSU election, beware of social influence and try to implement necessary measures to make your vote your own. Though the prospect may seem daunting, you are not required to vote for your friend or someone they support at an election. Only your opinions and ideas about a candidate’s qualifications and plans should matter when you check off the circle on your ballot.
It is also important to remember that along with your right to vote in Canada, maintaining the secrecy of your ballot is also a right that no one may infringe. While there is no harm in engaging in healthy political discourse, you should never feel compelled to share your political views with anyone, especially if it makes you feel uncomfortable.
As students receiving post-secondary education in a democratic nation, we ought to recognize our privilege and use it to effect positive change in our communities. Staying aware of how our friends and exposure to political views on social media can influence our stances, as well as doing our research, is vital to ensure we are truly making an impact with our votes.
C/O Sasha Freemind, Unsplash
How to navigate societal norms as a woman and embrace the person you are
There have been many points in my life where I questioned my capabilities simply for being a woman. I remember as a kid life’s possibilities felt endless and I was not the cookie-cutter version of society's eight-year-old girl. I loved getting aggressive on the field with the boys while playing Manhunt, I chose Pokemon cards over jump-rope at recess and I simply did not care about looks or my poise.
It wasn’t until I slowly started realizing I was not fitting society's mold and if I didn’t change myself to fit into it, I would be seen as less worthy. I began sitting on the sidelines watching the boys play Manhunt, I traded the Pokemon cards for the jump-rope and I started focusing on my looks and mannerisms. I started becoming more fragile and shy and avoided raising my voice.
In a period of time when I faced so much confusion, my second grade teacher was the only one who gave me clarity. He loved to read and write, specifically poems, and showed me that anyone could do what they wanted if they tried. He taught me that nothing can hold you back.
I was still intimidated by the notion of using my own voice and creating something with my mind, but I still pushed myself. Years later in high school, the pressure of being a woman — as depicted by society — grew in intensity. From navigating relationships, adjusting to cliques and figuring out what to do after high school, the only thing keeping me grounded was writing.
Writing helped me use my voice. I had the freedom to write about anything I wanted to. While writing, I did not feel what I felt as a result of society’s influence and messaging about women — small.
Through growing up in a society that believes women should be viewed as fragile, nurturing and sensitive, it becomes hard to believe in yourself and find your own independence. We feel as though we have to turn down our true selves or tie our identities to something else to simply fit in.
For example, Canadian women gained the right to vote in 1960. In fact, the pandemic has rolled back women’s employment rates in Ontario to the same levels as 1944. Today, for every 100 men promoted and hired to a manager position, only 72 women are promoted and hired for the same role and for women of colour, that number is even lower, with 68 latina women and 58 black women being promoted in comparison.
It is hard to feel powerful and independent when society tells you to be the complete opposite, yet praises men for their bravery and boldness.
My advice to any woman who feels belittled or smaller than they are is to believe in themselves. As cheesy as it may sound, every woman will be knocked down plenty of times in their life. People will question their skills and strength but as long as you have your own back, that's all that matters.
Moving with confidence and truly investing in yourself is what makes a strong independent woman. Be there for other women, work hard and the only person you truly have to prove anything to is you and no one else.
If not for my second grade teacher showing me everything I could gain from writing and teaching me the importance of valuing what I want to do, I would not be as confident in myself as I am today.
It is important to have inspirational women around you and to do what you love, take time for yourself, learn what gives you that feeling of freedom and run with it. Anyone is capable of doing whatever they please; it is all about confidence and believing in yourself.