Sunday, 8 December 2019

The One Thing You Need to Consider Before You Vote

Hey lovely! Today I want to talk about something I never thought I'd share here in a million years but the voice in my head was pretty insistent that these were words I needed to say. You see, in just a few days time, we will vote in the General Election and it's important that we take a moment to stop and think about who we will be voting for without any external noise blurring our thought process.

But what if the political candidates are the ones creating the noise? What if they're the ones manipulating our perceptions purely to serve their own agenda? Well that's exactly what I'm going to talk about today - sorry it's not particularly festive!

Green Chameleon | Unsplash

Note: Thrice Upon a Dream has now moved to Wonder and Grey!

Before I get into it, I should say that I prefer to stay outside of the political sphere and I have my reasons. But this time ten years ago, I was in my first term of university where I was studying philosophy and politics. It was a huge decision made on the basis that I'd been heavily involved in the political make-up of school life, often being elected by my peers to sit on various councils and committees, and that I'd studied government and politics at AS level and fallen in love with it.

Still, I didn't think I was intelligent enough for a PPE so instead pursued the two Ps at a red brick university. It was a huge achievement in my life to get there but despite my passion for the subject, my consistent 2:1 record and my plans to change direction into international affairs in my second year, depression hit me hard and I ended up dropping out.

Two years later I would return to a different university to take on a subject that was less academic and more vocational - music management. While there wasn't much overlap between the two courses, there was enough there for me to recognise parallels especially within the realms of fandom so when it came to time to write my dissertation, I decided to go against the grain and based my research on "political fandom". 

In layman's terms, I wanted to know:
(1) if politicians were seen as celebrities
(2) if people considered themselves to be fans of certain politicians
(3) if political fandom was a good thing

It became very clear that the answers were yes, yes and it's complicated. On the one hand, an engaged electorate is a good thing because it promotes participation. On the other, there are always extremes when it comes to fandom and politics is a divisive enough arena to begin with.

Consider what we know about modern politics. We've seen political ads manipulate messages to target certain personality types. Any person with access to a computer and the internet can create and spread propaganda and since social media is overrun with fake news, it can be hard to determine a post's authenticity and validity at face value.

Also political campaigning is personal branding on fire so we've been making more and more decisions based on personality rather than policy. It's not a new concept, we've been doing it for years, decades even.

The reality is that we often forget that politicians know how to influence. Every word, every action is carefully curated or strategically planned to appeal to a certain demographic of voters and it goes beyond just getting those people to vote for them. It's all about building that relationship with you because what they're really looking for is fans.

Think about it like this:

I've written a blog post so I share it and then I'll get some eyeballs from within my own network. But if you share it, you've increased my reach. I'll get more views and my network might even grow because you've endorsed me and therefore influenced your peers to check out my blog. (Side note to say thank you for the support if you have shared my content or engaged with me in any way - you're the best!) 

Likewise, a politician might share something that you agree with so you share it with your network and a few other thousand people will do exactly the same thing. You've increased that politician's reach and influenced your peers. It might not seem like much but it has a huge impact on engagement and participation.

The past five years of UK (and US) politics have been eye-opening and I wish that I could go back to university to revisit my research and build upon it with the experience and knowledge I have now. It really is quite fascinating. (I've included a little list of reading material at the end of this post for you to check out if you're interested in finding out more about the topics discussed here.)

But for now I'll leave you with this message, my fellow voter:

Think closely about your values and which issues are most important to you and your community and vote based on which party or candidate is the right fit. You want to elect the person or persons who will show up and stand up for the things that matter so choose wisely.

For a better understanding of which party's policies are the best fit based on your personal values, check out the Vote for Policies site.

I don't care who you vote for or your reasons for doing so because that's none of my business. I just hope you go forward with a bit of clarity about how personality politics, branding and fandom are very much in play at present and that you are able to make a mindful decision on the 12th! May the odds be ever in our favour.

1 comment on "The One Thing You Need to Consider Before You Vote"
  1. Thank you for writing this post. It's really useful advice just in time for election day