Casting your ballot is not just voting; it is sharing your voice. Amid propaganda and misinformation, protecting and amplifying your voice can be challenging. The first step to ensuring your vote values your voice is to refuse the influence of peer pressure on your mind and perspective.
Your perspective deserves to be respected, for it is a trace of your life experiences — a representation of you. When you cast your ballot, you exercise a right fought for throughout a history of systematic disenfranchisement and suppression. This same lack of freedom still exists today across the world, a constant reminder of why your vote matters. Upholding your freedom through voting contrasts this past and present inequity by refusing to be silenced.
When you cast your ballot, make sure you share your voice. As you share your voice, make sure you are the one speaking. In a digital world, we are constantly surrounded by multidirectional opinions and political agendas. Yet, these sources of political influence are only as effective as the commercials and comment sections from which they originate.
The notorious “rabbit hole” of social media has distracted many of us, and is especially harmful amid elections. Influenced by curiosity, we scroll through a chaotic frenzy of political hate speech, misinformation and animosity. Although you initially click on the comment section out of curiosity, or even academic interest, staying for too long can subconsciously dilute your perspective and blur your mind. Though it is important to be socially and politically aware, you must also be aware of where you receive information and what you allow to enter your mind.
Sifting through posts for opinions aligning with your perspective is a guilty pleasure similar to confirmation bias. If your aim is validity in the voting process, start with facts. Instead of only searching for other opinions reinforcing your own, engage in research outside of the comment sections. Once you gather reliable sources and facts, continue to eliminate the possibility of bias by remaining critical. Though a piece of information might be labeled a “fact,” always remember that actual political truths are scarce due to the social construction of politics. Analyzing the origin of the “fact,” who or what conceived it and any potential implications of its circulation are excellent starting points.
After pursuing factual information, continue to challenge your perspective by exposing yourself to opposing viewpoints. Political division can often inspire aversion to those who disagree with you. However, as we often learn in various avenues of life, confining yourself to your comfort zone and avoiding critique can limit the expansion of your mind. Sitting across from someone who experiences life differently from you can teach you unforeseen lessons, either reinforcing or questioning your previous views. In either scenario, you take one step further toward a more comprehensive perspective, which makes you a more informed voter.
As you breach your comfort zone and engage in difficult conversations, try to approach them with an academic growth mindset, willing to listen and learn with empathy. Despite its lofty demand, allocating time to sit down with others, hear their stories and develop empathy extends beyond politics. Though challenging, these conversations are opportunities for you to take control of your mental database and practice filtering accurate information.
Impersonal comment sections allow people to hide behind screens, typing insults and spreading harmful conspiracies. They post under an impression that they will not have to take accountability for their actions. Politics is highly contingent on accountability. Informed voting is an action you can take to hold yourself and your leaders accountable.
Forming your own opinions and beliefs based on your life experiences is an aspect of free will many often take for granted. You are a curator of your mind, so care for it and exercise your free will accordingly. The care and accountability with which you fill out your ballot means more than properly exercising your right to vote; it means taking responsibility for your actions. In politics, an action committed by a single person can influence an entire nation. In your life, your actions influence your future. Treating politics with the same caution and respect with which you care for your personal life is a reasonable goal, for politics can and will influence you.
While misinformation and peer pressure may challenge this care and respect, the values stemming from your life experiences allow you to choose for yourself. Forge your own path from these experiences. As you venture along your path, supplement your perspective with factual information and opportunities for enrichment. Learn what is meaningful to you, and vote. Unite your ballot with your voice.