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The youthquake reinvents itself in 2018


Youthquake was chosen as The Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year, and the selection has shaken up a new interest in what precisely the word itself stands for. Defined as, “a significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people,” it is not an unusual choice for Word of the Year due to the tumultuous changes that happened worldwide in 2017.

Illustration: Madalyn Drewno

According to The Washington Post, the data collected by Oxford Dictionaries for selecting youthquake was heavily influenced by British elections in June of 2017, which experienced a large young voter turnout in support of the Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn. News outlets in the UK christened the phenomenon of young voters a “youthquake” due to the unprecedented effect it had on the election overall. However, despite the phrase being tied to the political and social upheavals of 2017, the world is in no way “new” and neither are the sentiments of revolution and resistance it carries.

First coined in 1965 by Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, the word was used in reference to the young people at the time who were shaking the standards of fashion and music institutions with new attitudes and movements. Outside of the sphere of entertainment, the phrase “youthquake” aptly describes other movements of the era such as the civil rights movement, the student movement, women’s and LGBTQ+ rights movements, anti-Vietnam war movements, and many other counterculture awakenings.

When looking at the movements and revolutionaries of the 1960s, crowds of young faces (still much like the youth of today) stepping out into the streets with raised signs and fists are the quintessential visuals of the youthquake of the past era. Yet, the modern youthquake has taken on a new form of resistance.

When comparing countercultures across the decades, the most interesting shift has been from the streets onto the screens that are nearly omnipresent in modern life. The “youthquake” has shifted its form, like a wave traveling from the ocean to land: From picket signs and megaphones to tweets and memes, the “youthquake” has digitized. The youth of today still receive scoffs of disdain from older generations about a “technology addiction;” however, the modern inclination of the young generation isn’t necessarily a bad quality.

The proclivity of the modern generation to use technology as a way to express their personal opinions about social, political, and cultural shifts has strengthened the new face of the counterculture movement. A modern youthquake has shown itself through hashtag campaigns and online threads that allow youth to contribute to movements, regardless of their geographic location or physical barriers, because of the internet’s freedom. In a way, the beauty of the modern youthquake is how inclusive it has become to all movements because of the power each young individual now holds from behind a device. The new youthquake of 2018 is shifting power from singular entities with pre-established platforms to the common individual, whose power doesn’t rest behind a podium or public figure status, but instead, from behind their own keyboard.

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