This dark and, frankly, very terrifying moment in US history has lit a fire inside many people that normally don’t get very political. I’m one of those people. I’ve always cared and paid attention to big issues and I’ve always voted but I mostly stayed out of it. It was never “my thing.” But now, like many, I’ve been forced to make it my thing. I find myself rigorously reading Washington Post articles and listening to NPR and for the first time in my life, becoming a political activist. I’m proud to say that I am part of the Resistance. I can’t be silent.
I am also an introvert. Like, a hard-core introvert. I don’t like large crowds, talking on the phone to strangers, and I, in general, like being quiet. The many aspects of being an activist can be quite overwhelming to introverts, especially the socially anxious ones, but now is the time to put our fears aside and get out of our comfort zones (at least a little bit). It’s too important, and the consequences too dire, to not get involved. Here are some tips and things I’ve learned since becoming active in this Resistance.
CAREFULLY CHOOSE HOW YOU GET YOUR NEWS
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but scrolling through social media these days is stressful. I will agree that it’s a great way to share information (as long as it’s factual) and to organize with fellow activists, but sometimes it’s just draining and depressing. And a lot of it has to do with headlines from partisan websites or clickbait that say things like “Blah, blah DESTROYS yada, yada and THE WORLD IS RUINED!” or similar. You know they just want you to click through to their site to read their very biased story or view their video that was edited in such a way to piss you off or terrify the shit out of you. After reading headline after headline like that, you’re bound to feel shaken, overwhelmed, and like you just want to curl up in a ball and hide away until it’s all over. Which leads me to my next tip, but first, let me finish this one.
So add reliable, unbiased (or less biased) news sources to your feed: The Washington Post, the New York Times, Reuters, NPR (I suggest listening to it and getting it in your feed, but that’s just me), and others. I will also suggest Amy Siskind’s weekly authoritarian list, as it is simply a weekly list of each thing our current president does (and has done since he was elected), to keep track of what has happened. It will keep you more sane to be able to read the facts as they are, without bias, and have situations explained rationally. Instead of the headline making you scared, you can absorb the data and decide for yourself how you are going to react.
Here’s the other important part: READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE. I know time is limited and we don’t have time to do all the reading we’d like, especially with breaking news happening seemingly every few minutes. But there is a difference between reading a headline and reading an article and the difference is this: Context. To fully understand a situation or an event, you need to understand the context and the different aspects that go into the story. Like Macklemore says, “There’s layers to this shit, player. Tiramisu, Tiramisu.”
TAKE SOCIAL MEDIA BREAKS
Just close the tab in your browser. Put your phone down. Do something productive (or something totally unproductive). It will calm you down to take your mind off of all of it for awhile. It’ll be easier to go back to Facebook or Twitter with a fresh mind, and let’s face it, refreshing your feed every three minutes doesn’t produce new news. You just keep scrolling through the same stories and re-watching that Winona Ryder/SAG Awards facial expression video for the eleventeenth time.
DON’T READ THE COMMENTS
MAKE SOME PHONE CALLS (OR DON’T)
One of those productive things you can be doing during your social media break is calling your district Representative and your two Senators. It’s an extremely powerful tool in resisting and making your elected officials follow through with the will of their constituents. If you’re anything like me, the idea of using your phone to actually call people you don’t know makes your soul hurt. But since it’s really one of the most important things you can be doing each day (and it only takes a few minutes), you need to suck it up. So here are a few tips to make it easier:
- Remind yourself that making a few phone calls literally just takes a few minutes out of your day and you can go have some quiet time afterwards. Maybe promise yourself a reward, like a cup of tea, after you’re done with your calls.
- Program their numbers into your phone so you don’t have to spend time looking up numbers, time that will likely eat at your courage to make the call at all.
- Make a script to read from, or at the very least, an outline. This will prevent you from saying something like “Hi, my name is Kristy and I’m, um, I live in California and I’m calling to ask, er, demand Diane Feinstein to, um, make Steve Bannon, I mean, demand Steve Bannon to stop, er, resign because he’s dangerous. And, um, that’s all.” Having a script, complete with reasons and facts, that you can just read takes all the pressure off trying to come up with something to say.
- Don’t know what you should be calling about/what you’re able to ask? Try using a site or program that gives you daily calls to action. I like 5 Calls because it gives me the exact script I should use and all the people I should be calling regarding each topic. I also like Daily Action which texts you daily with a call to action and a number to call that will give you all the details you need and then automatically connect you with the person you need to be reaching out to. You still need to come up with your own words, but it’s still helpful.
- It’s okay if you just leave a voicemail. The Senate and Representative offices are being flooded with phone calls so at times, it may take awhile to get through, or it may go straight to voicemail.
- If you have a really amazing Rep or your Senator does something you really like, then don’t forget to thank them. For example, I’m proud to have Ted Lieu as my district Rep (Look him up- he’s been amazing these last few weeks). So I make sure to call and tell his office that. These phone calls are a lot easier and actually feel good to make, so I highly recommend doing them if possible.
If you’re having a day when you absolutely can’t bring yourself to make a call, that’s okay. Take a day off and reach out another way. You can email them or send them letters or postcards. You can also reach out to them via social media. If you can’t make the calls, just make sure you’re doing something. It really makes a difference.
FOCUS ON TWO OR THREE ISSUES THAT YOU FEEL MOST PASSIONATELY ABOUT
This is a tough one because I know that every issue that pops up sparks a new fire and You. Just. Want. To. Scream. And you certainly could focus on every issue- there are some people that are great with that- but long-term, this could burn you out quickly. Keep in mind that that you are not the only activist and there are other people focusing on issues that you’re not. Just choose a few to make a priority, be it immigrants and refugees, women’s rights, LGBTQI rights, racism, the pipelines, healthcare, the environment and climate change, the economy, education, political corruption, or whatever else. You can still make calls about all of them, but if you can focus your time and energy on just a few of those, it will help keep you from being overwhelmed.
Just a note, though, if you are new to activism, be intersectional with your focus issues, meaning that when you are focusing on one issue, you aren’t ignoring other issues or adding problems to those other issues. Be aware that your perspective or experience with an issue is likely different than those of a person of another race/class/gender. Be open-minded and try to educate yourself so that the way you represent an issue doesn’t exclude these other perspectives or experiences.
FORM A LOCAL PROTEST BUDDY/SUPPORT GROUP
Introverts prefer socializing in small groups rather than large crowds. We know this. So find your small group that you can meet up with at protests and marches and/or talk to when you’re scared out of your mind. My group consists of my husband (obvs), sometimes my stepkids (depending on their schedule and level of wanting to be involved), my cousin and his wife who live in Orange County, and few close friends who live nearby. They’re all people I know and love and feel totally comfortable being with for extended periods of time. So when I go into a large crowd, like the Women’s March (750,000 people-strong here in LA, holla!), for example, I can be immersed in my small squad while being surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people. Literally. For the hour before the march, it was packed so tight where we (my cousins, my stepson, and I) were that we couldn’t move. My head was stuck in some guys armpit for an hour. So make sure you’re comfortable being in tight quarters with your squad. Ideally, they’ll also know you well enough to know that you get overwhelmed in large crowds (maybe they do too) and can help keep you engaged and present.
Having a support group is important too. And while having a FB support group is great, it’s nice to be able to talk to someone in person, or even just one-on-one via text. It helps a lot being able to just text my friend or my cousin to tell them that I’m freaking out and they know the right words to calm me down and get me focused. This is important if you plan on doing this long-term.
photo credit unknown
JUST GET OUT AND PROTEST, EVEN IF JUST FOR A LITTLE WHILE
Chances are, there are protests happening near you that you can join in, and if you live in a large city like I do, there are likely multiple protests going on for different issues simultaneously. If you’re looking at the Facebook event page for a protest and the duration reads something like “8am to 9pm,” keep in mind that you don’t have to be there the whole time. Just go for a few hours, chant and shout, and be a body that makes the crowd size just a little larger. Be a part of the statement. Keep it peaceful and polite. It will feel good to be with like-minded people, peacefully expressing your combined outrage, and you’ll feel good for supporting a cause that’s important to you. It can be very cathartic and I can’t recommend it enough. Plus, it’s been made very clear in his first two weeks in office that our president is very concerned with people liking him. Protesting his actions (in a peaceful way- I can’t stress that enough), sends him a direct message that he’s pissed you off. When you max out on your crowd tolerance, though, you can leave. Easy as that.
You don’t have to go to every protest or march. In fact, it’s important that you get some downtime. If you’re an introvert, you probably understand that Alone Time recharges and refreshes you, while time around people slowly drains your battery. In order to stay charged for the long-term fight, you need to make time for yourself so that you can recharge. And that means staying home. Whether it’s going home after work instead of an activist meet-up or skipping a march or protest, sometimes being a homebody is the most important thing you can do. It doesn’t mean you’re being apathetic, it just means you’re gearing up for the battle ahead.
This part is very important. Activism burnout is real. In order to prevent it, you need to take care of yourself. Do things that make you happy and/or relax you. That could include binge-watching your favorite comedy series, cuddling with your animal companions, reading a book, taking a bath, drinking a cup of tea, baking a batch of cookies, or whatever floats your boat. Self-care also includes taking care of yourself. To be prepared for the Resistance, long-term, you need to make sure you’re in good health. So eat healthfully, exercise, meditate, and definitely get enough sleep each night.
GET INVOLVED WITH OTHER FORMS OF ACTIVISM
Aside from making phone calls, sending emails, and marching in protests, there are other ways to participate in the Resistance. Something you can do all alone, without talking to anyone, is donate money to charities that are helping with the fight, like the ACLU or Planned Parenthood, for example. If you’re feeling frustrated and need immediate gratification, volunteer with an organization that helps those in need or do something on your own to help others. Any way you can spend time helping those that need help is mutually beneficial. You may also have other talents that are valuable to helping the cause: if you like writing, you can publish articles or social media posts sharing information; if you are a singer, maybe you can create a song that inspires others; if you’re a photographer, you can head to the protests and marches to document this moment in history and share it with the world. Look inside yourself- there is a form of activism that is perfectly fitted for you.
MAKE RESISTING PART OF YOUR NEW DAILY ROUTINE
The road ahead is long and the fight will be hard. There is lots to do and the Resistance needs each and every one of us. Resisting and protesting and activism needs to be part of our daily routine, something we do as naturally as eating breakfast or scrolling through social media. It’s a lifestyle change and just like any lifestyle change, be it a new diet, a new exercise regime, or moving to a new city- it takes some time to acclimate to. Figure out the best way to work activism into your daily life, even if it means adjusting the boundaries of your comfort zone, and then keep doing it. At the risk of sounding dramatic (because it’s a friggin’ dramatic time we’re in, my friends), democracy and the fate of our country depends on it. The Resistance needs you.