How many apps can you name that offer both an avenue to send unsolicited dick pics and a pathway to achieve your political dreams? Unless you’re the disgraced former New York congressman Anthony Weiner, the answer to that question is probably “one,” after Snapchat announced a new feature on Tuesday designed to help young people run for office.
Aptly known as “Run For Office,” Snapchat’s new in-app initiative is designed to help Gen Z chart a course towards their political aspirations and “engage with democracy in an easy, native-to-mobile way.” The tool, powered by the nonpartisan informational resource BallotReady, will map out more than 75,000 upcoming elections on the federal, state, and local level that young people may be eligible to run in, provide resources to help would-be candidates understand the necessary steps to take to kickstart their campaigns, and allow users to nominate friends to run for office.
“At Snap, we believe one of the most powerful forms of self-expression is participating in democracy,” the platform wrote in a Tuesday blog post. “Snapchat reaches 90% of 13-24 year olds in the U.S., giving us a meaningful opportunity to empower the next generation to become active and engaged citizens.”
The Run for Office tool will be available as a “mini”—Snapchat’s suite of HTML5-built mini-applications that can be accessed without leaving the platform itself.
A social media feature for young people interested in civic engagement is a prescient offering, particularly given the staggering barriers to entry currently facing young people who are interested in pursuing a career in politics. Although recent research from Tufts University’s Center For Information and Research On Civic Learning and Engagement found that 83% of young Americans believe that young people have the power to change the country, only 12% of millennials interviewed in a survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of CNBC said that they had concrete plans to run for office.
While global crises like the Great Recession and the Covid-19 pandemic have undoubtedly played a role in financially stunting the youth’s political ambitions, the New York Times also reported in March 2020 that millennials and Gen Z increasingly feel alienated from the national political discourse, disillusioned by older candidates that proactively anticipate their disengagement and fail to engage them on the issues they care about.
If a new Snapchat feature is what it takes to remove the barriers that have historically kept young people out of politics, then great. Now, all we have to do is sit back and wait for the “puppy ears filter and single-payer healthcare” candidate of 2032.