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Student political power is being misused

University of Bristol students passionately fight for social issues, just as long as it is on trend with those around them.

By Ffion Clarke, Online Comment Editor

University of Bristol students passionately fight for social issues, just as long as it is popular with those around them.

Student activism sets the bar for the broader population. Where society often fails to extend democracy further than the occasional vote, student culture has popularised protests, encouraging accountability upon the government.

However, as social media normalises surface-level measurements of self-worth among our generation, many bandwagon onto protests just to post about it later and portray themselves in a positive light.

Social media certainly has a role to play in protests, with its capacity for organisation and awareness. But posting is regularly just done for the sake of it and without a genuine understanding of the issues. Often, this is substituted with less effective and shallow engagements with too wide an array of issues.

For example, while many expressed their anger regarding recent changes to the University’s pastoral care and the effects this may have on student mental health, the same individuals rarely engaged in wider attempts to normalise mental health and improve the University’s services before it became popular. In fact, many still colloquially use ‘depressing’ and ‘bipolar’ to describe things in their daily lives because this is still normal.

Activism is incredibly important for political change, and the University’s students have consistently proven themselves to be passionate and influential.

Growing up in the chaotic post-9/11 era, we have consistently been bombarded with negative news. So, it is easy for our generation to become overwhelmed and attempt to help everything, while also not wanting to engage too deeply because all of this negative news has desensitized us.

However, it is important that activism is meaningful. Until people take the time to engage more deeply with the issues they are protesting and the solutions surrounding them, the effects of protests will be limited.

If you are interested in inciting political change, it is important to figure out what it is you truly care about and attempt to deeply understand that. Engaging in one issue more than another does not mean that you should be seen as a less caring or socially aware person. In fact, it means you are more likely to have a true effect. Alternatively, surface-level engagement with a wide array of issues will either limit your engagement in all issues or stretch you too thin.

Students have a right to be heard within politics. But at this rate, surface level engagement will only incite surface level responses and solutions.

Featured image: Unsplash/Alex Radelich