Digital Natives

Making Sense of the Digital Political Landscape and Assessing the Potential for Mobilization versus Apathy

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Abstract

Those aged 18 to 25 are frequently cited in political rhetoric and scientific literature as one of the most apathetic demographics in Britain. They simultaneously constitute the prime users of new digital media. The assumption of apathy is based on traditional conceptions of political engagement—attendance at rallies, membership in political parties, and voting—that don’t consider a phenomenon like political consumerism, which is estimated to account for 22 to 44 percent of political engagement in the United States and Europe. This article explores youth involvement in politics by drawing on a series of interpretative phenomenological analysis interviews regarding social media usage and its suitability as a medium for facilitating political and civic mobilization. It argues that social media enables people to obtain political knowledge and generate feelings of solidarity, and illustrates how internal belief systems act as predictors of trust in the existing political structure and the media systems surrounding it.

Contributor Notes

Patrick Readshaw is a PhD student at Canterbury Christ Church University with an interest in political engagement. Originally a psychology undergraduate, his MSc in social and applied psychology has led to more detailed research into media effects and political engagement with a focus on British youth. His PhD dissertation, “Evaluating the Role of Media in Fostering Political Engagement among Young People in the United Kingdom,” explores the impact of social media on political engagement among youth aged 18 to 25. The current article represents a small section of the larger work. E-mail: p.j.readshaw68@canterbury.ac.uk

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The Multidisciplinary Journal of Social Protest

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