Today, the trash fire known as the 2016 election will finally be doused with the water of our nation’s citizenry. As Americans file out of their polling place, many will leave with a small sticker bearing the phrase “I Voted.”
It’s a cute idea with a long history; stickers are a persistent election tradition that have been around since the ‘80s. Sometimes they can get you free stuff. Mostly they’re a way to show everyone just how patriotic you are.
In the year of our social media lord, 2016, we have the power to project our political activities even further than before. Your voting status is no longer limited to your family, friends, and the people on the streets with enough confidence to not look at their feet during their afternoon commute. Nay, everyone on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and beyond will see your honorable badge. You need only mark your post with hashtags like #ElectionDay, #MyVote2016, and #iVoted to proudly toss your achievement into the world.
Selfies critics often decry the act as a form of narcissism, but advocates know the selfie is confidence in its purest form. In the case of I Voted selfies — a much safer bet than a likely illegal voting selfie — self-photography achieves a new goal: a socially responsible form of peer pressure.
On any given Election Day, let alone one as monumental as today’s, choosing to not vote is considered a generally bad practice. You forfeit one of your most basic, important rights as an American citizen, as well as any room you have to complain about the results of the election for the next four years of Saturday brunch. Not voting demonstrates a level of apathy and privilege about political issues and the impact they have on the country; you’re resigning yourself to whatever fate others will choose for you with no effort to affect who that might be.
A selfie can’t cure apathy, but it can be a gentle carrot to get up and participate. Posting a photo is a way to share excitement and pride. It’s a show of action to your peers, and a tacit invitation to do the same. If the candidate campaigning, news stories, or even celebrity endorsements can’t convince you, the very last bastion might be FOMO.
The photos you take today are a historical marker. If you begin voting at age 18 and live to the average lifespan of, say, 71, you’ll only have the chance to vote in 13 presidential elections throughout your lifetime. In the case of the first serious female contender for the presidency vs. a rotting pumpkin whose life force seems to be fueled only by a deep hatred of his fellow man, we can only hope this will happen once. Make that selfie count.