Activism and self care

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make a difference for people over the past few days. I think a lot of people have — for my generation in particular, a lot of people have really had a fire lit under them for the first time.

I’m no expert activist, but I do have some basic thoughts on steps that folks — especially those of us who are new to activism — can take to make ourselves effective in our efforts.

Get off social media

I’m not saying that there’s no activism to be done in social media, but unless you already have a big following, there are almost certainly more effective ways to spend your time. Right now, we want to think about how many people we can help with time we have available. Resharing a story is not going to help a lot of people, and it might hurt, which brings me to my next point.

Fact check aggressively

If you do spend time on social media, you are going to see a lot of heat and light, and a spectacular variety of unverified information. In a climate where people are literally scared for their lives, posting scary false information is truly harmful both to individuals and to the general air of panic. Don’t be a part of that.

Don’t fight with your allies

There’s a lot of finger-pointing going on in the liberal social media sphere right now. Harkening back to my first point, before you get into a fight with someone who agrees with you about 95% of our priorities, ask yourself who this is helping, and how much. Because if it’s a moot point anyway, then it just adds to the emotional load we’re all dealing with already. I’m not saying to let important things slide, but do yourself and your allies the favor of making sure it’s really important before you fight about it.

Take care of yourself

As I’ve discussed above, social media is terrible in a lot of ways right now. We’re seeing a lot of scary projections and reports, accusations are flying, and it all takes an emotional toll. Sometimes the right thing to do is take yourself off Facebook and get some water, take a walk, make some art, and so forth. This is true for all forms of activism. Remember that you are not helpful to other people if you are not stable and functional yourself.

Pace yourself

Like it or not, we are looking at President Trump for four years. If you feel like you’ve just gotten a wake up call, it’s going to be tempting to spend all your energy thinking or acting on this for a month, have a small nervous breakdown, and then desperately pretend that everything is going to be okay out of sheer self preservation. Don’t do that. We need you now, but we will still need you in six months. Find a few hours a week for activism and identify something that’s actually helpful that you can do with that time. Ideally, that thing should be something you don’t hate doing. If activism is miserable you’re likely to stop doing it. So think hard about what you have time to do and will keep doing. A few hours a week adds up to a a lot more over years than overdoing it during your first two weeks of activism.

The midterms matter

People are talking a lot about the next four years, but if we play our cards right, we can actually slow down any progress from Trump a lot by sweeping the midterm elections. The last mid-term elections saw a 72 year low in terms of turnout. We can and must do better.

I’m delighted to see so many people fired up. That’s the only silver lining for the election that I have right now, but it’s a big one. Democracy is not a spectator sport, and just societies don’t just happen. Let’s get out there and get to work.