Youths in Argentina can vote as soon as they turn 16 and most are lean away from the economic right.

“Argentina is one of the countries in the region and in the world where most time is spent on social media,” says Argentine academic Raquel Tarullo.

It ranks the 5th highest country globally for time spent on social media  and it has the third highest amount users on Instagram  in Latin America.

“Instagram has grown a lot. There is a high percentage of the public who are informed through Instagram,” says Tarullo whose area of research is new media, youth, online participation and activism.

In addition to canvassing, she says social media has played an influential role in this year’s elections.

“There was a digital communication strategy which was fundamentally aimed towards the youth,” says Tarullo regarding Frente De Todos, the leftist Peronist political party.

Although not mandatory until 18 years old in Argentina, the law changed to allow 16-year olds to vote in 2012 under the presidency of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Some say it was a more inclusive measure to allow the youth to exercise their democratic right. Others say it was a way to gain advantage of a younger vote.

“At 16 years old you have the responsibility to choose your president who will represent you and all of the country,” says 18 year old Tatiana Lillo Cares.

According to Tarullo this year’s campaign is different to the 2015 campaign which was “disorganised” and relied heavily on Facebook.

16 year old Argentine student Maura Burrafato who comes from a politically active household, says more importance has been paid to social media since the last campaign.

“They reached many sectors that they hadn’t before,” says Maura.

As a Peronist she says it’s important.

“It represent social justice, the inclusion of the working classes and the minorities or those who are invisible in society,” she says.

According to Tarullo, “undoubtedly there was a strategy and it started on the 18th May when Cristina Fernandez says in a video who she is going to accompany as a presidential candidate and this is highly innovative.”

‘Groundbreaking’

Tarullo says the type of social media used by the winning presidential candidate also changed.

“The ground-breaking aspect of Alberto Fernandez’s campaign is the incorporation of Instagram, which in 2015 practically didn’t exist,” she explains.

Tarullo says Alberto Fernandez’s had a “highly visual campaign” online, with most interaction on Instagram, above Facebook and Twitter.

On Instagram Alberto Fernandez’s range of politics is varied - from posting support to Latin American politicians, images of social gatherings or discussing policies like LGBT rights or more private moments with his pets at home - he regularly uploads content.

His approach is different to former President Cristina, who prefers to communicate directly via Twitter, having had issues with the Argentine press before.

Tarullo says today there are younger sectors of Argentine society circumventing Facebook who are informed mainly by Instagram, which is no longer only a place for selfies and non-political content.

According to Tarullo Instagrammers and Youtubers had high levels of penetration amongst the youth, describing their actions as “non-formal approaches to activism”.

“They are instagrammers and Youtubers with wide impact in the youngest groups. They made videos, memes which were highly politicised, reaching core age groups where traditional political communication doesn’t reach,” says Tarullo.

She says one of the most popular is satirist Marito Baracus .

“This was the most ground-breaking aspect of political communication strategy towards the youth. It wasn’t in the hands of political leaders, it went beyond them and was carried out by other groups - other influencers, other Youtubers, who really reach the youth and younger age groups,” she says.

Extending reach

But others appear to have played an influential role too.

At 19 years old, Ofelia Fernandez became Argentina’s youngest legislator within the Peronist movement this year.

She has developed a strong following on Instagram, amassing over 394K followers.

As a feminist Ofelia rose through different youth movements, speaking out on a range of different issues impacting Argentina’s youth in health, education, employment, abortion, gender violence and inclusiveness.

“Where she made a hit was on social media. She knew how to decipher people on there and how social media is a tool to reach many people which you couldn’t before,” says Maura.

“She has very interesting thoughts for the age that she has,” says Tatiana who actually voted for the opposition and Mauricio Macri this year.

Maura considers Ofelia to be pioneering saying, “she opened a new door for youthful activists in politics.”

“Ofelia more than anything is a figure in feminist circles, in terms of how to interpret feminism today - for female adolescents. This wave was very big and it needed an image to put in the political arena, in the economy and on social media and Ofelia was that,” says Maura.

“She came to break down politics,” Maura says.

Ofelia advocates gender-neutral pronouns as part of her political discourse, which is becoming more popular in Latin America - although not all Spanish-speakers are in favour.  It’s regarded as a way to strive for more inclusiveness, particularly for non-binary identities. In Argentina it became gradually more popular towards the end of Cristina Fernandez’s presidency.

‘Fresh’ strategy

Ofelia’s Instagram account is varied, from interviews, political policies, social events and highly produced videos whose aesthetics appear like an urban music video .

“It’s a fresh communicational strategy - spontaneous. It’s something which a female of her age can do. That same style of communication carried out by any of the candidates would be clumsy,” says Tarullo.

There are others influencing the youthful political scene as well.

Wos is an Argentine urban music star and is taking the country by storm, releasing his first album this year.

“He came up as an underdog, working hard to get to where he is,” says Tatiana.

According to Tarullo, Wos through his art is “indicating exactly how the youth are stuck within such a highly polarised society, which is our country”.

Tatiana as a regular church volunteer, working with underprivileged children says Wos’ music carries an important message.

“You realise what’s happening in the country and what he feels.  It appears very much out of the norm and extremely good what he’s doing, taking advantage and using rap for himself and society to inform what’s happening,” she says.

Tatiana says his most popular song ‘Canguro’ is a critique of Mauricio Macri.

“At the start he speaks to you as if he’s a king who you have to respect and he’s the one in charge,” says Tatiana.

Political engagement appears widespread amongst young Argentines, especially for Maura who also volunteers.

“You gain awareness when you’re in the working-class neighbourhoods - ‘the villas’ (shantytowns). The kids there don’t eat 3 times a day. At times they don’t go to school because they have to stay looking after the family, as the parents are working,” she says.

Argentina has 52.6 percent child poverty and youth unemployment is at 27 percent.

Maura says her voluntary experiences and political discussions have led her to be hopeful for Argentina’s future.

“It gave me empathy and knowledge about what’s happening at a national level and the awareness and understanding that political discussion is a tool to transform things in the country. “

Source: TRT World