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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Tinder-esque politics app is exactly what America needs

I crashed on my couch Friday night, pulled out my phone and began swiping left and right. I paused for a few seconds every time something caught my eye, and if I were particularly interested, I’d spend a minute writing a message.

No, I was not on Tinder.

Believe it or not, I was not desperately looking for a date; I was voicing my opinion on proposed national legislation.

A recently released app called Countable provides users with unbiased descriptions of legislation proposed in Congress, allows them to vote “yea” or nay” on each bill and automatically sends their representatives a message conveying their opinion.

It’s incredibly easy to use and makes engaging in politics refreshingly simple.

“The reason Countable will succeed with the public is it truly boils down the issues and it is easy to use,” said Bart Myers, founder and CEO of Countable, in a 2014 interview with PRWeb.com. “Politics are far too complex and inaccessible as is. Countable’s strength is that it makes politics and policy accessible to both those who watch the 24-hour news cycle, and those who may not.”

After using Countable for a couple of weeks, I can tell you that the app truly is great. It’s well designed, has plenty of useful features and provides clear descriptions of legislation I might not otherwise understand.

But I can’t help but wonder if my voice is truly being heard.

The app claims to give users the power to “influence Congress in minutes,” but such an ability is dependent on our representatives actually taking the messages Countable sends into account when deciding how they will vote on a bill.

Surely an automatically generated message from a smartphone app conveys less conviction than a phone call or a personally written email.

Countable gives the public the opportunity to easily have our voices heard by our lawmakers, but at the same time, it diminishes the impact our individual voices have on their decisions.

However, that sacrifice is one we should be willing to make.

It’s the summer of 2015. In terms of American politics, that means it’s already 2016. Welcome to an election year.

Each day brings a flood of new posts from our friends that show nothing more than general left or right wing association.

You shared a link about Bernie Sanders supporting free public higher education? You must be so socially conscious. You shared a link about Ben Carson using drones to protect the border? You must be so patriotic.

This kind of surface-level social media engagement doesn’t influence American politics. It’s a cheap and easy way to appear politically-minded, which amounts to little more than another box we can check off our list of online “personal branding” requirements.

According to Dr. Samara Klar, UA School of Government and Public Policy assistant professor, “We now have so many means of communicating messages and receiving political information. To be sure, millennials are exposed to far more political rhetoric than any previous generation–be it online, through social media, political satire on TV or the massive amounts of money that campaigns are now spending on advertisements.”

And yet, such online political over-saturation hasn’t necessarily resulted in higher levels active political engagement.

“Certainly the 2008 election saw a large increase in millennials’ voting–but that has appeared to drop right back down in subsequent elections,” Klar noted.

That’s where Countable comes in. It may not be the most powerful way to take part in the political process, but at least it provides a communication mechanism for citizens and lawmakers.

Our generation can’t exclusively vote in high-stakes presidential elections and expect our country to change in the ways we want it to. If we want real change, we need to vote in all elections, stay informed on proposed legislation and tell our elected officials how we feel about the issues our nation faces.

If we continue to trap our political discourse in the bubble of our social media profiles, members of Congress will be unable to take our opinions into account when making decisions on legislation. They are elected, after all, to represent us, and thus they must have an understanding of our attitudes towards the bills they vote on.

We need to move beyond simply sharing posts with our like-minded peers and start actively engaging in the discussion around national legislation. Countable is the perfect place to start.


Follow Graham Place on Twitter.


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