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Naomi Ko Headshot

Flaky Youth, Flaky Future

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"Oh no, something came up."

"I don't think I'll be able to, I'm really busy."

"I totally forgot about a family thing tonight, sorry."

These were some of the responses I received when I was reminding my friends about a phone bank I was organizing. This November, Minnesotans will be voting on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, and I was hosting a volunteer gig to convince fellow Minnesotans to vote against the ban.

Funny how it is that while so many of my friends and peers support same-sex marriage, and do not want this ban to pass, that hours before the event begins, they suddenly become busy with work, familial commitments, illness, or simply not show.

And while this is certainly frustrating for my personal pride, I cannot help to feel little faith in my generation -- our nation's "future."

People say that my generation is the one who will really change the world and that we are the ones who are really going to make a difference.

How are we going to change the world when we are just sitting and "liking" causes, but not getting off our computers and doing some actual work?

Maybe this is how it's going to work -- social media. We're going to like, tweet, share, and that's how we're going to change the world.

Well, as innovative and fresh as social media is, only some people have access to it. And while many people use it, it is really the younger generation that dominates the market. But to what extent does social media really influence our national politics? The American public does not utilize social media for political means like the Egyptian population did during the Arab Spring. Recently Reuters found that social media has a modest impact on American political viewpoints.

The reality of situation is that social media is not enough and will never be enough. To truly change minds and influence people to vote, to vote for a particular candidate or cause -- phone banks, canvassing, and good old human interaction is necessary and essential.

In the 2008 presidential election, voter turnout for young adults from the ages of 18-29 was at its highest in U.S. history. However, in 2010 the youth vote fell 60 percent. Granted, 2010 was not a presidential year and as a whole voter turnout dropped. But 60 percent? This particular statistic is troublesome.

Was the 2008 election a one-time deal for us young adults? Was there something magical about the 2008 election? How do we re-energize the youth vote? How do we get youth excited about politics and government? How do we get them to be involved and passionate about citizenship?

But I keep wondering if this lack of commitment is how it is -- that young adults are enjoying the fruits of their youth and do not want to make commitments to political campaigns. Hell, some of my friends cannot even commit to dinner or a monthly book club. Do we just become more interested in politics as we become settled? Is this the rite of passage into mature and responsible adulthood?

When I first voted in 2008, I was excited. I had turned 18 only months before the election and completing my voter registration card was exhilarating. I attended events, speeches, fundraising events -- I wanted to know it all and even went to my local caucus. I felt that my voice was heard. My friends and I were excited -- we were finally adults and finally had a say in our society and how our government was to be run. We mattered.

The novelty of voting faded and in 2010 a lot of changes occurred. Politicians that I did not support were elected. Policies were put into place that I wholeheartedly disagreed with. I became incredibly frustrated, and yes, I complained.

How could I be this annoyed if all I did was vote? How could I be this annoyed when I did not talk to my friends and family about the issues that really mattered to me?

From my experience as a young voter, I realized that politics was an internal process for me. Yes, my family and friends know my political alliance, but the reasons behind my beliefs -- I kept it to myself. No one knew why I voted the way I vote, and how much certain candidates and causes meant to me.

However, I realized that constant verbal communication and human interaction helped change my parents' view on same-sex marriage and photo ID laws. After many talks, arguments, and heated dinner conversations, my conservative parents agreed that although they do not believe in same-sex marriage, the government should not dictate who one could or could not marry. And even explaining the entire photo ID proposal, my parents' view changed with a civil five-minute conversation.

And this is why I am frustrated with my fellow young Americans. The apathetic attitude, the internalization, the flakiness, the unwillingness to talk to others about the issues they care about the most -- it doesn't do anything. It doesn't change anything. Liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican, Green Party, Libertarian, etc. -- believe in what you want, but act on it. Posting articles on Facebook? Tweeting 140 characters on a particular candidate that you like or dislike? Fantastic. Voting? Essential and necessary. But lobbying and communicating with fellow Americans is the way to change how our government functions.