Stop mocking Jeremy Corbyn’s attempts at social media, at least he’s trying to engage a younger audience
This weekend, breaking news in certain corners of the internet has been Jeremy Corbyn’s recent foray into the worlds of Snapchat and Instagram, and how it’s a social media car crash to rival a Kanye meltdown.
The faux pas have by any measure been fairly cringeworthy: his Instagram handle is jeremy_corbynmp, making his surname sound like it should rhyme with gore-gimp, and half of his snaps are in landscape format shot by a weirdly omnipresent third party who captioned a charming upload ‘selfie queue’ despite a distinct lack of selfies (clue’s in the name: it’s when you take a picture of yourself, not just anything involving a camera) and queues.
Jeremy Corbyn is the first major political figure in the UK to sign up to Snapchat, the messaging service with 100 million daily active users of which almost half are under 25. It’s easy to stick to the snarky judgements, but it’s a lot more important to realise what this means.
A few weeks ago the national media posted hand-wringing op-eds about the news that half of 18-34s still didn’t know whether or not to even vote in the EU referendum, let alone which position they favoured. Youth apathy towards politics is not new – it’s been a talking point ever since I can remember. Yet David Cameron made the pointed choice to schedule the referendum, one of the most important decisions of a generation, during Glastonbury festival. Have you ever tried registering for a postal vote? It takes so much time and effort that it’s eerily reminiscent of those impossible 18-page forms you need to fill out to get your money back when a train is delayed. There’s a reason no one bothers.
While George Osborne announces budget after budget which are disproportionately detrimental to young people and Cameron decides no one under 25 is entitled to proper housing benefits or a living wage, Corbyn is pushing the Labour Party to really listen to younger voters and not just pay lip service by mentioning tuition fees once a year during PMQs.
To genuinely engage a younger audience, politicians need to work out where the conversation is happening and get involved, and this is exactly what Corbyn is doing. Whether that’s speaking at music festivals or signing up to the latest social platform, it’s clear Labour are trying to create a space in which young people feel represented. We should be encouraging all our elected officials to do the same – even if it does take them a while to get the hang of it.