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Shock, Rage And Gallows Humor: A Brexit Backlash On Social Media

Supporters of the 'Stronger In' Campaign watch the results of the EU referendum being announced at a results party at the Royal Festival Hall in London on Friday.
AFP/Getty Images
Supporters of the 'Stronger In' Campaign watch the results of the EU referendum being announced at a results party at the Royal Festival Hall in London on Friday.

U.K. voters have decided to leave the European Union — a result that's left many Brits reeling, especially young people.

Social media is flooded with expressions of shock and rage as the country begins to digest what the monumental decision will mean for its economy and its future.

On-the-day polls show a strong generational divide on the issue, with at least 73 percent of voters aged 18-24 wanting to remain in the EU. By contrast, only 40 percent of voters over 65 wanted to stay.

It's that divide that has provoked this backlash from young people, who accuse older generations of choosing a future that they don't want. "Freedom of movement was taken away by our parents, uncles and grandparents in a parting blow to a generation that was already drowning in the debts of our predecessors," reads a comment on a Financial Times article that has been shared tens of thousands of times.

As the commenter writes, "The younger generation has lost the right to live and work in 27 other countries. We will never know the full extent of the lost opportunities, friendships, marriages and experience we will be denied."

The hashtag #WhatHaveWeDone, which is trending in the U.K., provides a stark snapshot of the rage, disgust and sadness many young Brits feel about the result. Here's a selection of tweets:

Of course, a sizable number of young people supported the move and are celebrating:

The referendum result has also provoked some excellent gallows humor, poking fun at British food and at the immediate economic implications of leaving the EU.

It's also prompted the classic "moving to Canada" reaction, with some social media users posting that they are researching other places to live. According to Google Trends, they have plenty of company.

In a Guardian opinion piece, writer Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett argues that young people are right to be angry, especially the "16-year-olds who were denied the right to participate in this referendum." Here's more from Cosslett:

"...[I]f you are young and you are experiencing feelings of fury and heartbreak about the result, you are justified in doing so. The political is personal; the way that the future weeks, months and years play out will have powerful, definable consequences on the way you live. This is one of those momentous turning points in our personal timelines; if you're pissed off, you are right to be."

You can find our coverage of the vote result here.

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Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.