Are digital activism, partisan debates, and doomsurfing through Twitter turning politics into just a hobby for everyone?
Many of us have unknowingly subscribed to the chimera of political hobbyism. We live in a digital era. The world is at our fingertips. Benefiting from this new age of social media, Generation Z consumes political information and is always up to date with each and every news. They think they are well-informed, and they are using this knowledge to bring change. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Engaging in politics as a leisure activity, getting into heated debates online with people one doesn’t know, and cheering on people from the other side of the screen while someone else is doing the real work are the new habits of political hobbyists.
Eitan D. Hersh in her book ‘Politics Is for Power’ shows political hobbyists as “people who follow the news, the latest developments on social media, and consume political information”. These people are never offline. They spend most of their time reading articles and geting into online debates just to satisfy their emotional and intellectual needs.
However, their involvement in politics never goes beyond this. There is no effort made by them to actively participate in bringing real change. For them, politics is just a way of seeking instant gratification by scrolling through their feeds and exchanging heated comments on the current happenings.
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The Problem of Political Hobbyism
Political hobbyism means consuming mass news without having any real commitment to participate in the process of change whatsoever. These political hobbyists are attracted towards scandal, entertainment, and gossip which is detrimental for the functioning democracy, our youth, and community participation. Local news is boring and less alluring for them. They think that they are engaging in politics but in reality, they are passively following political hobbyism which in turn is making the political system worse.
Yet, for Pakistanis, being active in politics is more like a leisure activity that is not driven by a sense of duty. Doomsurfing through Instagram and Twitter and self-gratifying online activism have turned politics into a hobby. It is different from being duty-bound and is more similar to lacking civic-mindedness.
The new forms of participation like signing online petitions, partisan cheerleading, and online (hate) campaigns are examples of political hobbyism. The political hobbyist prefers partisan competition over the public interest. When political stakes are high, they have trouble invoking responsibility and duty.
This turns out to be an ultimate dilemma for our world as people are more informed but less politically active since the last decade. One of the reasons for this new issue is the increasing use of technology. Facebook and Twitter continue to feed people with what they want and are known to reinforce the behaviors. Consequently, these behaviors lead to people seeking cheap thrills, partisan fandoms, and the spread of infodemic of misinformation.
The question that arises here is whether, at this point, political hobbyism is a harmless way to spend time on social media, or is it being pernicious to political activism required to bring change? What should be done to reform it from being a form of entertainment to a vehicle for the public good?
The answer lies in the paradox of our passion for politics. Our youth needs to evaluate the content they are consuming on social media. They need to question whether this specific political activity is just a way of partisan emoting or a gateway to change. It’s crucial to channel their energy and time away from political hobbyism to societal development.
Talking about politics is not similar to talking about a cricket match rather it is about moving beyond meaningless political hobbyism, acting, and making a real change in this world. Saving the world should be the only hobby.
Breaking Through Political Hobbyism
If we want to make a difference in this world, we have to get up from the couch of news consumption and focus on achieving concrete goals. Political hobbyists can still engage in real politics. They just need to adopt the hobby of commitment towards building a better world.
Instead of spending time online and doomscrolling through the news, one should spend his time building political organizations, advocating for a true cause, and implementing a sustainable vision for our local communities. So, get up from your settee, start engaging with your local politics, convince your neighbor to vote, and start a volunteer group. Only then you are allowed to head home, pick your smartphone, and scroll through Twitter to your heart’s desire.
The writer is a student of Development Studies from NUST. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org