With the election looming, social media activism seems to have reached an all-time high. Call-to-actions like “Make sure to register to vote!” and “Abstaining from voting is a vote for Trump!” are splashed across countless Instagram stories. This era’s zeitgeist is intensely political. We, the impassioned adolescents of Generation Z, are far more meaningfully engaged in political discourse than the generations that precede us. Or so we’d like you to think.
Here’s an observation that might throw our generation’s self-image into peril: according to the Marriage Pact, Stanford students rank political engagement as one of their lowest possible priorities in a partner.
At the end of the Marriage Pact questionnaire, students are asked to “Choose which questions matter most to you.” The most commonly ranked question is “My spouse should be my best friend.” Aw. But as much as we claim to care about voter engagement, out of all 53 questions on the survey, “I always vote” was almost dead last. It was the #47th most important question, according to Stanford students, about as significant as “I like fast food.”
What’s more important than voting, according to the Marriage Pact respondents? Kinky sex, being well-dressed, having your children attend an Ivy-League college, PDA, and taking the Stanford Honor Code seriously, to name a few. You might brush off this statistic with the caveat that Stanford students simply don’t care if their significant other is politically engaged. But doesn’t that demonstrate something significant about our values? People are incentivized to fill out the Marriage Pact honestly, seeking at least a new friend, and in many cases a potential romantic interest. If we care whether or not our partner is well-dressed, but don’t care whether or not they vote, that paints a pretty politically apathetic picture.
It makes me, for one, wonder how performative social media activism really is. We might encourage our followers to vote with a few glossy IG stories, but how much do we care, when it comes down to it? In some cases, not too much.