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General Election 2019: It’s my first time voting and I’m already tired, writes Sophie Bird

If I was to sum up how I feel about this election, it would be somewhere between intrigued, frustrated and very, very, very tired.

I don’t really think that’s exclusive to first-time voters like me. A lot of us are exhausted by politics today but also hooked on the drama and possibilities of what’s next, like a political Love Island.

Hello, it's me, Sophie Bird. Picture: Selin George
Hello, it's me, Sophie Bird. Picture: Selin George

However, the information that makes us want to lob our phones into The River Medway is targeted at us in different ways.

No leaflets have been put through my door, broadcast news is on in the background and I’ve only met councillors through work.

Instead, I get a lot of my political information online and through social media. Through news clips, articles, arguments, twitter threads and memes.

It is clear as day that politicians are battling for young people’s votes online. It's most interesting when they try to slip into young, online language when they want to relate to us.

The River Medway from Rochester Bridge, so far too pretty to throw my phone into Picture: Sophie Bird
The River Medway from Rochester Bridge, so far too pretty to throw my phone into Picture: Sophie Bird

Young people are pretty good at sussing out who is and isn't “one of the lads” because posts are easy to pick out when they can't speak like "the youths" of today.

Before the election it was much more cringe inducingly obvious and we would not trust anyone who looked as if they were trying too hard.

But now, some parties are much better at it by appearing more natural and some are much more subtle. Politicians can finally be seen to have "pure bants" and are often encouraged to "drag him, sis!" (mocked).

The Conservative party's Twitter even tried a completely different tack; a serious post used a picture from the collection of stock images that brought us the popular unfaithful boyfriend meme.

This may be a lucky coincidence or it might be a clever way to get young, Twitter savvy users to share the picture and share the message with it - whether they agree or not.

Here's an example of the "unfaithful boyfriend" meme
Here's an example of the "unfaithful boyfriend" meme

In terms of policy, there has been some talk of how Brexit should be done. But the parties that appeal to youth voters most also discuss climate change, wages and the NHS.

Those parties are campaigning on a range of issues that will directly impact people like me now and far into the future. From years of being afraid of heading out into the big wide world, it's hope for that world which first time voters will respond to the most.

Though I might be relieved that I can’t see “REGISTER TO VOTE” every five posts anymore, the efforts to spread that message were done exceedingly well.

Parties and activists played on the nature of online activity to share that message as if it was a political movement and campaign in itself, possibly contributing to a sharp rise in youth registration.

I registered to vote early on, but for young people less intrigued than me - who might be frustrated or just tired - this constant reminder really kept the election right in our faces.

Many more young people have registered to vote this year than 2017
Many more young people have registered to vote this year than 2017

But this does not change the main point of frustration for me. Scrolling through the barrage of screw ups, lies and vague half truths from the past and the present is demoralising.

It feels like a lot of us are voting for the party we dislike the least — everyone seems to have some skeletons in their closet or has made promises we can’t be sure they’ll keep.

I am very, very, very tired of politics as it has been for most of my life. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that after the impact of the last decade, we need a change.

But intermingled with all that, I am still hopeful.

I really like the phrase “be the change you want to see in the world.” It’s a good start.

For more Kent 2019 General Election coverage click here.


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