Less than two weeks ago, an influencer named Rezo, who has his hair dyed blue, went on his YouTube channel, and raged for 55 minutes about how lightly the German government was taking issues of the environment and the damage this will inflict on the future.
Currently, the video has over 14 million views. And it has gathered nationwide attention. To the point where CDU fumbled their response.
Initially, they had said that they would respond on YouTube as well, through the party’s youth leader, and on that day no response was seen. Naturally enough, the party was mercilessly ridiculed online by citizens.
As Germany was going through elections, Rezo was asking young people to take a stand by not voting. Simply not participating because the government does not know what it is doing. Some politicians criticised Rezo for what he said, saying that he exaggerated facts and oversimplified issues. Others applauded, for he was able to practise his right to freedom of expression. The video started a campaign and other influencers have now hopped on board.
Is not voting the new way of protesting? We recently saw in South African elections how so many of the youth had become apathetic and saw no need to vote. The administration has been riddled with corruption and politicians are more of a nuisance rather than a help, in their view.
Several youth chose not to vote, and for many it was a silent protest. They are losing faith in the system, and everyone who is voted in ends up being the same.
So why waste hours queuing for something one does not believe in?
In a time where the ground is shifting, media houses are working to keep up with the fast pace.
Their social media platforms now share news every few minutes. And digital papers are easily accessible and affordable. But one thing that everyone has to grapple with, is not competition just among themselves as media houses, but competing for the same audience with influencers.
Influencers speak the language that young people can get. They are able to turn something plain into something understandable. And not under the same limitations, where a journalist must share content that is fact and verifiable in an objective manner. Influencers can share whatever they feel like sharing.
News agencies use language that many young people find difficult to follow and so tune out. Hence large international news agencies are experimenting with more youthful sets and presenters.
When presidents around the world continue to mock and discredit the press, it makes the world of information-sharing even murkier.
Young people do not wait for a certain hour to watch the news. They do not rush home to catch the 7pm news. They can catch news whenever they want from wherever they want. Because many spend time on social media networks, it becomes an easy go-to.
But, there is something about beliefs. Apparently research demonstrates that we tend to listen when we agree. It is easier to convince someone, if there is a small opening for them to agree with you in the beginning.
Hence when you have a particular view on an issue, you will tend to search for information that supports your argument. And the Internet makes that even easier: Algorithms now calculate your habits and likes, feeding you exactly what you want to be fed.
In a world where that is all a young person knows, where on a post they want the likes to increase because it gives them a short high, which can even be compared to dopamine, being ignored is like being slapped.
It is easy to be in a space where everyone thinks like you and reasons as you do. Hence, when bloggers and influencers have a reach that can create a national conversation, the same way media houses used to control headlines, we need to be prepared for what “publishing houses” will look like in the future, or how information will be shared. Individuals with a large online presence will be similar to news houses.
In the last US election, many people believed posts on Facebook, and encouraged the posters by sharing, even as they questioned information from media houses.
Nerima Wako- Ojiwa is executive director of Siasa Place. Twitter: @NerimaW