Politics in the time of social media and extra-loud news channels can make or break a first-time voter’s experience

Twenty two-year-old Annnavarapu Akhila from Amberpet is a first-time voter and she was keen to get all the paperwork done. “I do follow the elections news on both news channels and social media,” she explains, “I feel through channel advertising media, we could better understand the developmental process of our government so far. But we do have our own analysis though, with our own opinions and conclusions regarding whom to vote for and why.”

The conversations first-time voter’s have at home are important in making these analyses. Twenty three-year-old engineering student Aditya Kollipaka from Kokapet shares that though he doesn’t live with his parents, who reside in Secunderabad, they still have conversations about the elections, discussing largely what is circulated in the media. “My parents are becoming more aware of what fake news is and they’re alerting their friends who often send daily forwards,” he says, “and even though we don’t share the same beliefs, as citizens they are owed the truth.”

Residing in a household comprising family members across the political spectrum, 23-year-old Bandela Vijaya Sneha Chintal from Medchal explains, “News gives us lots of information, though it gives biased views; I don’t like that but pros and cons happen a lot, right? The young citizens must educate people regarding our voting rights and all. It’s our responsibility too as our generation has lot at stake. On social media we can approach each other and I think it’s a good problem… but the major problem to be noted is the propaganda.

‘Looking for nuggets of truth’

“Many missed their right to vote at the last elections in Telangana as their voter IDs were not found, despite getting registered and having an Electoral Photo Identity Card,” she says, referring to the #WhereIsMyVote scandal from last December. This could hinder the willingness to vote in the first place when political apathy still thrives.

Social media for first-time voters, and pretty much anyone, can be cumbersome to sift through looking for nuggets of pure truth. And the overwhelming information can be confusing and can swing a vote. “For the last elections, different parties announced their manifesto stating some ₹3,000 funding for women graduates and that changed a lot of people’s minds. But that’s not what we want from our government, right? We really want opportunities for our standards — not just money.” She elaborates that these opportunities include jobs in the government sector, involving young people in politics rather than just relying on their vote. “People are fed up with the hierarchy!” she laughs.

Aditya shares there’s a lot of policy discussion amongst his fellow classmates, but his college is clear in not allowing any politicians to speak at campuses. “They want to come but that’s not what our college is for. What we do away from campus regarding our vote is not the chancellor’s concern. One thing I like is that people now understand the importance of voting privacy. Social media is a space where people say, ‘I voted for this person, and so should you’, but reality is different. I want to vote and see what comes of it, not have hundreds of calls with uncles and aunties about who I voted for and why I might be stupid or smart for those decisions.”

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