Election 2020: Social media plays large role in influencing teens’ political opinions

Anand Krishnan, Staff Writer

In a Hawkeye View poll sent out to all Hoffman Estates High School students, 84% of HEHS student respondents shared that this election was important to them personally. The majority of respondents indicated that social media outlets like Instagram has influenced their overall opinions about the election.  

“I think this is probably the most important election in modern history, and it’s important to me because if it swings the way I don’t want it to swing, then it’s going to hurt so many people,” said Arianna Hanley, junior.

This generation is also the most interconnected in human history with the widespread use of the social media app Instagram, which has over 1 billion worldwide users. This increased use of Instagram has also led to a debate regarding whether Instagram is a good source for political news. Therefore, in the context of these times, it is important to understand the impact this app and its users have on Hawks and their political opinions.

It is well-known that Instagram plays an increasingly important role in teenagers’ lives, but it also has a big impact on their political views. In the previously mentioned poll, 76% of the respondents said that their political beliefs were influenced by something they saw on a social media app such as Instagram.

Both Donald Trump and Joe Biden have Instagram accounts, along with several other accounts maintained by their respective supporters. Their posts are responsible for volumes of political content on Instagram, which can influence those who view it.

“They [the Instagram posts] just pop up in the feed randomly, and I’m like ‘oh, this is interesting,’” said Joey Lim, junior. The political posts that he sees spark an interest in the political topic of debate for him, which he then pursues further.

Most high profile celebrities also have Instagram accounts, and they can influence others’ political opinions as well. One celebrity that had an effect on a Hawk’s political opinions was Kevin Hart.

“[It was] right after the presidential debate. He [Kevin Hart] talked about how Trump failed to condemn white supremacists and he posted something about that on Instagram,” said Sourya Sappa, junior. Sappa said that he “agreed with him” and that Kevin Hart’s comments “basically reinforced my ideas.”

This widespread use of Instagram also has its downsides. Certain accounts, some of which are run by teenagers, hurl abuse at candidates and their supporters, have published hate-inspired comments or have even sent death threats to anyone who opposes their political beliefs. Although this does not reflect the majority of the Instagram community, it is a problem that has developed due to teenagers’ growing role in politics and their ability to do such things quite easily.

Instagram, like all news sources, can be extremely biased as well, especially with Trump or Biden fan accounts which only post good things about their candidate and bad things about the opposition. It is this bias that turns many people off of Instagram.

“If I see something controversial on Instagram or something, I do my own research on what actually happened and I determine my opinion from there,” said Sunny Trivedi, junior.

Therefore, many teenagers are also realizing that Instagram isn’t the best source for forming political beliefs.

“I feel like Instagram is one of the most biased sources you could get information from. But you could also get the truth from it at the same time. It’s just that you sort of have to pick out the truth and you have to pick out the bias and all the opinions from someone’s post,” said Lim.

Instagram, like all things, has its pros and cons, and it is up to the user to determine what to do with the information that he or she receives. Therefore, whether you believe politics on Instagram is a good or bad source of political content, the fact that it has a great impact on teenagers’ political views cannot be denied.

Paige Schneider contributed to this report.