12/05/2015 19:00 BST | Updated 12/05/2016 06:59 BST

Students Must Become Politically Active, Not Merely Politically Engaged on Facebook


Image by Celsteh

We have now registered that we are faced with a Tory government, now unfettered by the Liberal Democrats' capacity to mitigate the effects of the former's ideological assault on society's most vulnerable. Left-leaning students, who, although worldly and well informed of current-affairs, woke up on Friday morning with an immense sense of helplessness that their passionately held views have amounted to very little, when only shared between friends of the same political orientation. One of the issues now confronting students, is that our political engagement with friends in person, and on social media, has obscured the fact that many of us have not been politically active on the streets. I am certainly guilty of this myself. Yet, this helplessness has coincided with a new found sense of urgency, a need to do something, to shout loudly, and organise with others in any way, shape or form.

I have been on many protests, but, and I am sure this applies to many others, most of the instances of my political engagement is characterised by sporadic, faltering interventions, particularly on social media, which carry the danger of lacking interactions with anyone other than the immediate student body. What Friday should represent is a turning point in the approach of particular students on the left. We need to get involved, as often as is humanly possible, in the protests and grassroots organisations that can oppose this incumbent, vindictive government.

Our time at university is immensely constructive in developing our political views. Indeed, through Facebook, we certainly gain an enlightening exposure to articles that we may not otherwise have read. Particular concise statuses have the capacity to compel you to question, if not at least refine your views. Yet, to be immersed in your friends' opinions has the dangerous tendency of merely confirming your own political views, and possibly inflating the misconception that many others similarly them. We woke up in Friday with results that affirmed views at odds with our own. Moreover, though we may be involved in political dialogues over social media, this does not by extension mean that we are political activists.

Granted, one could argue that there is only so much we could have done, especially given the subversive influence of the right-wing press in undermining Ed Miliband's leadership, our woefully inadequate voting system which undermined many students' votes for the Greens, and mutually reinforcing manifestations of Scottish and British nationalism, which have fundamentally changed our political system. However, it has now become apparent that the need for us to become more politically active pertains to far more than sharing articles on Facebook, or even voting at the end of fixed-term parliaments. Becoming politically active means far more than a sycophantic adherence to a political party.

Where-ever you are studying, there are a myriad of ways to get organised on a local, grassroots level, and the opportunity to protest through a medium other than social media, to rally alongside people who are outside our own student bubbles. For example,The Living Rent Campaign, a group comprised not just merely of students, is making headway in arguing for rent caps in Scotland. On a UK-wide level, Bring Back British Rail has admirably increased its support base over the past few years, now in a position where it can effectively coordinate protests outside train stations across the UK, as a form of spreading awareness of the disaster that has been the privatisation of our railway services. With an impending referendum on the EU, it will become imperative, that rather than simply preaching to our friends about benefits of EU membership, we organise to convince others up and down the UK - who do not share our views - of retaining transnational, institutional links. We need not despair now. Facebook can help, but, incrementally, we can broaden the scope of our own political interactions, recognising the diversity of views held by the wider electorate, and crucially, getting involved on the streets, shouting as loud as we possibly can.