Speaking on behalf of your bog-standard, politically “woke” and characteristically liberal university student, we are all equally guilty of constructing a social media sphere in which most of our followers and friends have similar political views. This results in mass disappointment and disbelief after hearing of the results of each and every large political shake-up.
The beauty of friendship in adulthood is that you can more or less pick and choose with whom you remain friends after many years of childhood, and strategically choose your friends at university and work. Not everyone likes everyone, and in adulthood, unlike on the playground, this is not bitchy or blasphemous, but realistic and practical. However, to an extent, you may just tolerate certain people because it is easier for your everyday life: generally people with whom you share a house, a workplace, or a (God forbid) group project.
Online, this is not the case. The impersonality of online interactions makes it easier to cut people off in digital confines, for instance by simply declining to follow someone else back. As a result, most people that we choose to interact with on social media have views that we share and encourage. Sure, we have the odd relative or schoolmate who will post an infuriatingly right-wing view on something you and all your other lefty friends have already agreed on, but we dismiss their views as the minority. What people often fail to acknowledge, is that this minority does not represent an actual minority in the population, but the minority of the population with whom you facilitate social media interaction; they are the minority of your personal social media bubble.
Take the concept of self-selective sample sizes: your Twitter feed may agree with all of your views on Trident, and join you in demonising all your right-wing villains and sketching love hearts onto Barack Obama candids, but by definition, the Twitter population will be of a certain age demographic (74% 15-29 in 2016), have a smartphone to access the application, and respond to viral social media trends in their leisure time. In developed countries there is an increasingly aging population, the majority of whom will not share their views on apps beyond their comfort zones, consequently alienating a large chunk of the population.
Accordingly, when we vote in large elections and referendums, we enjoy the reassurance from our social media sphere, and you have yet to see that many people with a different view, so of course your left-wing opinion represents the opinion of the nation. This has proved to not be the case in most of our recent major political changes: Tories re-elected after the 2015 election, Trump taking the US presidency in 2017 and the Brexit vote.
Despite this, it is not to say that the majority of the population disagree with you. In fact, more often than not there is a huge chunk of the population who do not vote, jeopardising the outcome for everyone who did. These non-voters are another voice you will probably not hear on your social media sites (unless it’s Russell Brand). The reason often being that they do not feel like their opinions are strong or valid/educated enough to entitle them to a vote; or they feel ennui with a constantly disappointing political system in which they feel their voices are not heard. Overwhelming voting statistics prove that if all the people who didn’t vote actually voted, there would be enough fuel for the losing parties/policies to win, or the winning side having more of a majority.
The moral of the story at the end of the day is that do not be deceived by what you see on social media and do your own research. Always acknowledge that there is another side, with whom you may not necessarily agree, but they exist, and have just as much power as you do. Most importantly, your vote counts, so use it!