Doing something costs something. Doing nothing costs something, and quite often doing nothing costs a lot more.” – Ben Feldman.

In 1994, South Africa experienced the first democratic elections take place on South African soil – approximately 19 million people cast their vote that year. However, in 2021, nearly 27 years since the very first elections, we only saw roughly 12 million South Africans cast their vote. That is a decline of approximately 2 million fewer voters making their way to the ballot; but why the recent disinterest in participating?

Many members of our youth do not feel as urgently pressed to change the political climate. Instead, it’s apparent that the focus is on bettering themselves in a personal capacity, all while enjoying the freedoms that our ancestors have fought for.

Without taking the cynical route, I do want to cast a light on the fact that it was the very dismantling of the apartheid government that allowed us these freedoms. Unfortunately, that does not, in any way, signify the end of our fight for change. Less participation means less chance of change, and that’s a lesson South Africans are still trying to understand.

In the digital age we live in today, we have the whole world at our fingertips. Never before did we have the ability to communicate with anyone, anywhere on the planet like we do today. It might not seem like much at first but connecting with a community of like-minded people could be the first step to changing the world.

Believe it or not, you don’t need millions or even thousands of followers for your influence to make a difference. Sharing your opinion matters more than you realize, and more than anything, making sure you’re using your power for good by not spreading misinformation. Having a voice is important, especially with all the issues we are facing in our country today.

It takes you to break the cycle and step out of your comfort zone. Many social movements started with a simple tweet or the sharing of a personal story which, in turn, resonated with many who felt the same way. The 1976 Soweto Uprising is a perfect example of how achieving change is no easy feat. Many lost their lives fighting for the change they believed in and we cannot ever forget the impact those students left on the lives of all South African youth to follow.

These students believed in their right to learn in their home languages and fought for it with everything they had. It’s through them that we get to beam with pride over the 11 official languages of our country. But, as we know all too well, this fight is far from over.

Being active politically is a two-sided coin, and enjoying the right to your freedom of speech is a privilege that not many South Africans have. Taking up space in this digital landscape is a luxury – especially when those whose voices need amplifying the most are left resourceless.  Access to the internet is a privilege, and as such, so is having a voice in today’s world.

It is our responsibility to not only get these issues to light but also use these resources wisely and not take it for granted. Many use online activism as a quick solution to issues, using a quick retweet or share to make themselves feel better – like they participated in the fight for a better world – instead of investing real time into trying to find a solution like our ancestors did.

Try and live by example, do not use your platform to spread misinformation but instead take it upon yourself to educate your friends and family. When you feel strongly about something, make sure you do your research and find ways to properly insert yourself into the conversation.

Finding ways to directly engage with an audience is everything that Street Talk is about. Connecting communities, giving a voice to the voiceless and telling real people’s stories are where you matter. It’s where change in South Africa matters.

One thing to keep in mind is that like anything worth your while, change takes time so be patient and stay passionate because the key to a lasting impression is always dedication. Don’t give up, just know – The internet is meant for much more than selfies and viral videos, it has the power to change the world.

Tyler Shaye:
As a freelance writer, film editor, and cinematographer, I enjoy using my platform to challenge your perspective on everyday experiences. I am very passionate about my work and I hope reading it ignites something in you too.