The dangers of ill-informed political stances
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.