When I was 16, my mum told me I shouldn’t use an epilator on my bikini line. I didn’t listen to her, and that was a momentous mistake. She also gently suggested that, perhaps, bleached, distressed denim jeans were not the most flattering choice. For these sound pieces of advice, I am thankful.
But sometimes, our parents advice can be damaging. Yes, my dad was right when he told me I shouldn’t stick a metal object into a switched on toaster, but he wasn’t right when he told me I should vote Conservative in 2015.
I learnt first hand the cost of being influenced by my family. In 2015 – partly disinterested, partly overwhelmed – I was unsure who to cast my vote for in the General Elections. Who better to turn to than my dad? He’s lived through government transitions, financial crashes and the London bombings. A man who went from employed to self-employed, who owns property, who immerses himself in politics, and most importantly, loves University Challenge.
What I failed to take into account was personal bias and deep-routed political dispositions. So, naively, I too voted Tory.
That night at dinner, my brother taunted me as he basked in the irony of an animal-loving vegetarian voting for a pro-fox hunting party. Crying into my mashed potato, I couldn’t begin to comprehend my own stupidity.
Just a week later, I was engaged in a heated email debate with my local MP, Simon Burns, regarding his stance on fox hunting. I signed petitions, I rallied on social media, and desperately threw my disposable income at Peta – I wanted to recant my actions, and soften the crushing guilt I felt.
But this goes so much further than animal rights.
This year, I actually listened. I downloaded podcasts, I watched debates, I read interviews, I clicked on just about every politically-charged article I saw on Facebook and Twitter, and I made my decision.
I know that my Conservative vote alone would not have changed the outcome in 2015, but I also know I was not alone in voting under influence. Together, those votes could have made a difference.
I have no intention of telling you who you should vote for, or even why you should vote at all (but you should), I’m just here to remind you that the opinions of your family, friends and contentious acquaintances on Facebook are not superior to your own.
Don’t do a me. Don’t give your vote away.
Images via Giphy.