Karina Brea ‘22 sits in her apartment in the Upper West Townhouses at Marist College and glances at her phone, patiently waiting for the color-coded map on her screen to change. During the week following Nov. 3, this was common for many Americans as the presidential election between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden extended over the better half of a week.
“I found myself looking every hour, just kind of checking to see if anything had changed,” Brea said. Like many Marist students, Brea’s anticipation as a first-time voter in the election lasted until the moment Biden’s win was finally confirmed, approximately four days later on Nov. 7.
Grace Thompson ‘21 echoed Brea’s sentiments. Being only 17 in the 2016 election, this was Thompson’s first time voting, as well. “I really projected on my social media for people to vote because it’s your right as an American, and it’s so important,” Thompson said. “I definitely felt a huge responsibility in voting in this election. I was very anxious about how it was going to turn out.”
More than ever, the role of social media in this election was a dominant force shaping young people to vote. “The 2008 election was the first time social media was used to encourage people to vote,” Daniela Charter, a political science professor at Marist, said. In her past five years alone of teaching, she has already seen a large difference in attitudes. “Since I’ve started teaching American government, I have seen a dramatic increase in the interest of people saying they’re going to vote.”
This is in part due to college-aged students predominantly consuming their news from social media platforms. According to a study done by the Pew Research Center in 2018, about one-in-five adults said they often get news on social media and about 43% of adults get their news strictly from Facebook alone.
“I think social media has both good and bad [effects],” political science major Natalie Vazquez ‘22 said. “I think that people are so quick to grasp whatever comes up on social media that they don’t even try to get the information on their own.” This can cause “fake news” to spread at a rapid pace. “Social media is not qualified as a place to go to get all of your answers,” Vazquez said.
However, social media is also a tool which students have found incredibly useful in this election. “We see so many different opinions and ideas on social media that I think it’s easier for [college-aged voters] to form our own opinion because we have all of the information laid out for us,” Demi Lonergan ‘21 said. “It’s so open and there’s so much information out there that you can look into whatever you want and educate yourself.”
While social media platforms and new technology have improved the way that Marist students have viewed the election, the results did not leave some feeling satisfied. “I feel almost unsettled in a way,” Vazquez said. “It’s kind of concerning how Trump isn’t acknowledging the election results because that’s such a threat to our democracy.”
As of Nov. 25, President Trump has not given a concession speech, and is now filing lawsuits to make sure “the rightful winner is seated.”
“For a country that’s supposed to be the epitome of democracy, it’s scary,” Vazquez said. “I just hope that if this democracy is as strong and powerful as we’ve been taught, that this too shall pass.”
Despite challenges to the electoral process and American democracy, students at Marist expressed the desire to continue using their voices. “I’m very relieved with the results, but at the same time it doesn’t stop here,” Brea said. “We need to hold the Biden administration accountable for what they said that they would do.”