Welcome, Gen Z
Since the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has resumed voter registration last month, I’d like to welcome into the fold a new, potentially powerful segment of the electorate: Generation Z. Last year, Gen Z and millennials (ages 18 to 39) formed more than half of registered voters. The youngest brackets (ages 18 to 24) had more than 10 million members.
This time around, Gen Z should be an even bigger and more influential sector, as more of them will turn 18 by the May 2022 elections. But will this cohort rise to the occasion?
A study from Far Eastern University’s Public Policy Center came out last year with disappointing conclusions about the Filipino Gen Z. Polling freshman college students from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, it suggested that these youngsters were dependent on social media for information, susceptible to disinformation, and sociopolitically apathetic.
Big oof, as teens would say. To be fair, we millennials have also received unfavorable labels, ranging from “indifferent” to “entitled” to “snowflakes.” I can’t say we’re all faultless now, but we did pick up a few lessons from past election seasons and their outcomes. As a millennial Ate, I offer three pieces of advice to Gen Z-ers of voting age.
First, care about a cause. Apathy is an ugly stereotype—prove it wrong. Perhaps some of you aren’t really unconcerned, just afraid of being labeled “pa-woke,” because apparently, participating in or speaking up about societal issues is considered cliché now.
But there is absolutely nothing wrong with caring. In fact, it’s needed in many places. Our farmers who can hardly break even, our women and children who are abused, our natural resources that require better protections—they and many others need your attention and support. Now that you can vote, use your ballot to help elect candidates who espouse your advocacy, especially real public servants who have demonstrated action.
Second, get out of your echo chamber. Social media, especially. It’s one thing to browse for entertainment, and another to depend on your news feed for information. That news feed is specifically designed to regurgitate back to you what you like. You give a thumbs-up to one funny meme about a politician, and next thing you know, your feed shows more meme suggestions that are uncannily similar.
This is how news and opinions are filtered for you and bounced back to you. It affirms your latent biases and gives you a sense of being well-informed, when in fact, there is more to learn out there. Be critical of that viral post you just happened to see while browsing. Read more from trusted news sources. Brush up on related histories and contexts so no blogger can gaslight you into accepting half-truths.
Lastly, let logic, not emotions, guide you. In recent election seasons, it became clear that the voting population was deeply polarized, not just as voters but as friends and family. We had heated debates at the dinner table; we unfriended people we’d known for many years. We held on tightly to our chosen parties and candidates, and when presented with new data that contradicted our biases, we only dug our heels further, refusing to acknowledge and reassess.
As kids who grew up surrounded by endless information, it should be normalized among Gen Z—and yes, among Gen Y and other age groups, too—to reevaluate our opinions based on new credible material. It’s okay to admit if we were wrong about something and that we’ve learned more about it since. That’s growth. Between today and May 2022, we can watch our nation with a rational attitude, using our impartial scrutiny to guide our votes come election day.
Of course, to start with, we must register to vote. The Comelec website has ample content about registration requirements, and the application process itself is simple. You can even download and fill out the forms before you head out. There’s practically no excuse not to register. It may feel like it’s too early now, but don’t make the mistake of your Ates and Kuyas who put off registration until the Comelec offices got too crowded close to the deadline.
Remember, Gen Z: You’re 10 million strong. You could be a game-changer. We’re looking forward to seeing you in 2022.
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